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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Council Chief Supports Land Sales

The conservative head of the Russian parliament's upper house, giving unexpected backing to President Boris Yeltsin's crusade against one of the last vestiges of communism, said Tuesday he favored legalizing the sale of land.

"Of course there should be private property on land, including the right to sell, buy or rent land," said Yegor Stroyev, the chairman of the Federation Council.

"There should be just one condition -- the price of the land should be real," said Stroyev, a longtime Communist Party chief in the agricultural Oryol region in Central Russia who now runs it as an elected governor.

Stroyev said fixing real prices on land could help rule out abuse of property in the course of land sales, referring to a land register that is now in the works.

"As things are now, the government is getting 50,000 rubles [$8] for a plot of land near Moscow while its real price is several thousand dollars," he said. "The state gets nothing when the land changes hands and a special mechanism is needed to change the situation."

In July Yeltsin vetoed a draft land code approved by both the communist-dominated lower house, the State Duma, and the Federation Council, which comprises influential regional chiefs.

Yeltsin said he would never sign the land code into law without a right to sell and buy land clearly spelled out and provided with all necessary mechanisms.

"The farmer should be the real owner, and let him decide what to do with his property," he has said.

Yeltsin sees a web of limitations on private land ownership as a major stumbling block in the way of reforms in the agricultural sector.

The Communists and their supporters in the Duma argue that unlimited freedom to sell and buy land will end in foreigners and New Russians, interested only in reselling it, buying most of the land for nothing from impoverished farmers.

The Duma is now considering whether it should overrule Yeltsin's veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in the house. The Federation Council then would also have to reconsider the draft.

Support for Yeltsin from Stroyev, whose region belongs to the so-called pro-communist "red belt" in Central Russia, may be good news for the Kremlin leader, signaling that regional leaders were not committed to a Communist stand on the issue.

Yeltsin, who visited the Oryol region last week, praised agricultural reforms run by Stroyev in his fiefdom.