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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Sidesteps Parliament With Decree on Land Sales

Sidestepping parliament to break an impasse over land ownership, President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree allowing Russians to freely buy and sell land in cities and towns throughout the nation.

The decree, signed Wednesday, cuts through the parliament-imposed block on private land ownership.

The decree is effective until a land code is introduced, so the president is under less pressure to push a liberal land code through parliament.

The Communist-dominated State Duma, or lower house of parliament, had approved a restrictive land code keeping tight Soviet-style limits on land sales and purchases.

Yeltsin's parliamentary representative, Alexander Kotenkov, has called the move illegal, saying many lawmakers voted for their absent colleagues, and threatened that Yeltsin might appeal the draft code in court.

But the president, continuing his tradition of establishing law by decree, has allowed municipal land to be bought and sold as the fight over the code continues.

The draft code is now mired in the Federation Council, or parliament's upper house. But even if the lawmakers approve it, overriding Yeltsin's veto as their colleagues in the Duma did, the president is likely to block its introduction indefinitely.

But some analysts said that Yeltsin may not even need to stall the land code's passage any more.

Sergei Markov, an analyst with the Carnegie foundation in Moscow, said the decree forces lawmakers to back down from their restrictive measure and to liberalize in line with Yeltsin's wishes.

With the land bought and sold under the decree, parliament is unlikely to adopt a code banning such transactions, for fear of legal battles that would erupt over newly purchased land, Markov said. Most of such suits would likely be resolved in favor of new owners, he said.

"By signing this decree, the president has left the Duma without an opportunity to adopt a land code of a too socialist nature," Markov said.