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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Votes to Restore Soviet Union

The State Duma threw history and law to the winds Friday, voting overwhelmingly to declare the 1991 accords that dissolved the Soviet Union null and void and calling on President Boris Yeltsin's government to take urgent steps to reintegrate the former Soviet republics.

A Communist-sponsored resolution denouncing the Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreement renouncing the 1922 Treaty on the Formation of the Soviet Union, was passed by 250 votes to 98 with no abstentions. The agreement was signed in December 1991 by Yeltsin and the former Byelorussian and Ukrainian leaders, Stanislav Shushkevich and Leonid Kravchuk.

Communist and nationalist deputies hailed the nonbinding resolution as a triumph and a crucial first step toward the restoration of the Soviet Union.

Yeltsin, for his part, described the move as "scandalous" and accused the Communists of attempting to disrupt the presidential election. He said he would not allow the implementation of "this irresponsible resolution."

"They are not thinking about Russia or about Russians or about how to implement this resolution," Yeltsin said Friday after a meeting of his Security Council, in remarks shown on Russian Television. "As initiators of the resolution, the Communists are trying to disrupt the presidential elections. There is nothing else that can be seen in this resolution."

Former Soviet republics were quick to condemn the action.

Reformist deputies were also dismissive. Grigory Yavlinsky, presidential contender and leader of the Yabloko faction, said the decision would have no legal effect and accused the Communists of attempting to play on people's emotions and sense of nostalgia.

"All this talk of red flags and national anthems does nothing to help the real process of integration," he said, adding that in 1991 the Communist Party had voted in the Supreme Soviet to ratify the Belovezhskaya Pushcha accords.

Vladimir Lukin, Yabloko resolution was likely to cause foreign governments to adjust their hitherto positive impressions of Zyuganov. He has taken pains to assure foreign businessmen and international gatherings, such as last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, of his commitment to market reform, albeit at a slower pace. "It will certainly come as a surprise," the diplomat, who declined to be identified, said. "This is something they would never have imagined, especially after Davos, where Zyuganov gave such a strong impression of himself as a democrat. It will worry them a bit."

But even those who spoke against the resolution emphasized their commitment to the cause of closer integration among the former Soviet states. With the distinct scent of the June presidential elections in the air, no speaker was prepared to speak out in defense of the 1991 accords as a triumph for national self-determination.

And supporters of the resolution reveled in the opportunity to heap opprobrium on the initiators of the accords, accusing them of betraying their country.

Ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky drew cheers and applause when he waved a pair of handcuffs from the podium and demanded that those responsible for the accords be brought to justice.

"Where is Burbulis? Not here. Because he is afraid. Shakhrai is here; we can arrest him here and now, in this hall. Where is Kozyrev? Not here, of course. And Gaidar is no longer here," Zhirinovsky declaimed, referring to former members of the Yeltsin team, Gennady Burbulis, Sergei Shakhrai, Andrei Kozyrev and Yegor Gaidar.

Communist deputy Anatoly Lukyanov, chairman of the Communist-era Supreme Soviet until his implication in the August 1991 putsch against former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, said those responsible for the accords should face charges. "Their time will come. History will judge them."

Lukyanov described the resolution as a "moral, political act," that would lead to all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States correcting their positions over a gradual period. "No one denies that the process of reintegration is already going on," he said. "We want to deepen it."

Initial reaction from the former Soviet republics was cool. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan described the resolution as a "provocative act, aimed against the sovereignty of the member-states of the CIS," Interfax reported. A senior presidential aide in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, told the agency that it was a hazardous step that "meets the interests of a limited number of politicians and pursues obvious political ends on the eve of the presidential elections."

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma warned against attempting to turn the clock back and recalled that the Ukrainian people had already made their decision on independence. "Today's decision by the State Duma is inappropriate," he said, according to Interfax.

Government spokesmen in Kazakhstan, one of the founder members of the CIS, declined to comment on the resolution, but Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Thursday in advance of the vote that the restoration of the Soviet Union was out of the question.

In Belarus, which has voiced frequent demands for closer integration with Russia, Foreign Minister Vladimir Senko said the resolution would have no legal effect.

Officials in the three Baltic states, which pulled out of the Soviet Union before the December 1991 accords, also expressed disquiet.

Gorbachev, whose tenure in office was effectively brought to an end by the Belovezhskaya Pushcha accords, accused the Duma of failing to take into account the realities of the current situation.

"It might appear that in my position, I should applaud this return to the point of departure, as it would mean resuming my function as president of the U.S.S.R. I did not resign, but discontinued my work because of the breakup of the U.S.S.R. But to speak today about the restoration of the U.S.S.R., when the fate of the state is already decided -- that is failing to face up to the new realities," Interfax quoted him as saying.