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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Rejects Trophy Art Bill for 3rd Time

Another rancorous episode was added to the saga of the so-called trophy art bill Monday when President Boris Yeltsin sent the unsigned document back to parliament for a third time.


The controversial bill claims art treasures taken by Soviet troops from Germany at the end of World War II as Russian property, making it extremely difficult for the works to be returned.


Yeltsin vetoed the bill in February, and legislators in the State Duma and Federation Council voted overwhelmingly to override the veto. But Yeltsin refused to sign the bill and sent it back to both houses of parliament, claiming procedural errors in the voting.


Lawmakers refused to vote again on the law and returned it to Yeltsin, telling him to take the issue to the Constitutional Court. They accused Yeltsin of flouting the Constitution, which has no provision for ignoring a veto override.


Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told reporters Monday that Yeltsin has sent the bill back to parliament once more, citing the same objections.


The president's decision provoked anger from the bill's authors. "I don't know what is guiding his actions, but I can say that it is certainly not the law or people's rights," said Emina Kuzmina, a consultant with the Duma's Culture Committee who helped draft the law.


The president alleges that when the Duma overruled the president's veto of the bill, some of the lawmakers registered as having voted were, in fact, not in the building at the time. Deputies in the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, violated procedure by voting in a postal ballot, not in person, alleges the Kremlin.


The trophy art bill has angered Germany, Russia's biggest creditor, and has aggravated the war of nerves between the Kremlin and the communist-dominated Duma. The 200,000 contested works of art have been given an estimated value of $65 billion by a German newspaper.