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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Feels Deceived By Kremlin Hints




Only a month after President Boris Yeltsin hinted that he would reward State Duma deputies financially for approving his nominee for prime minister, legislators are complaining that the Kremlin has cut back on their funding.


Perhaps they should have got the deal in writing. Sergei Kiriyenko was confirmed last month as prime minister, but Monday, when Communist Duma Deputy Yury Voronin needed a government car to get to an important meeting, he was told the Duma motor pool was short of money and therefore literally out of gas.


Voronin, who lives in a far-off suburb about an hour's drive west of town and doesn't have easy access to public transport, managed to obtain a car after a half-hour's badgering by his staff. But Wednesday he took the Duma floor to lodge an official complaint to Speaker Gennady Seleznyov.


He continued his protest by quitting the committee set up to deal with the proposed tax code. Other deputies sympathized.


"Maybe it's an exaggerated response on the part of Yury Mihailovich [Voronin], but he is absolutely right," Deputy Speaker Nikolai Ryzhkov said. "Parliament is not a commercial structure, it's not a street kiosk. We need normal circumstances for legislative work."


It's not the first time there have been interruptions in Duma services due to shaky financial support. Speaker Seleznyov has complained about the problem from time to time, and there have been two other recent interruptions in transport services, the Kommersant Daily newspaper reported Thursday.


Deputies were sent a letter Friday last week informing them of a temporary lack of transport due to the lower house of parliament's shaky finances, though apparently Voronin missed it. Most rank and file deputies don't rely on official cars, but are bussed between their apartments and the Duma building on Okhotny Ryad near the Kremlin.


The financial crunch must be a disappointment to deputies. On April 14, at the height of the fight with the Duma over Kiriyenko's confirmation, Yeltsin suggested that the top Kremlin official in charge of providing housing and accommodation to officials would "address the questions" of deputies after the vote. The televised hint was widely interpreted as a prom ise of largess. Kiriyenko was duly approved on April 24 with 251 votes, 25 more than needed.


Alexander Shokhin, head of the Our Home Is Russia faction, said the real issue was not the gas shortage for the Duma motor pool but why Yeltsin is apparently not reporting to the Duma about unilateral cuts in the budget -- something the president promised to do as part of the compromise that resulted in passage of the budget in March.


Shokhin cited Kiriyenko's statement last week in a newspaper interview that the government could not pay for 26 percent of its budget obligations in all areas.


The final budget language permitted Yeltsin to make cuts across the board, so long as he informed the Duma and the mass media within three days. Shokhin noted drily that the Kremlin at least kept half the promise. "The news media was notified on the first day, but the Duma so far has received nothing," he said.