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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Asks Council for Hand With Land Code

President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of regional leaders Tuesday that the country urgently needs clear land legislation, but did not elaborate on his stance over the hotly disputed issue of agricultural land sales.

His remarks came five days after the State Duma passed on first reading article 17 of the Civil Code that lays out how to buy and sell all land but agricultural plots.

Putin told his advisory State Council that the issue of private land ownership for private and commercial use is of prime significance politically and economically.

Saying he would support legislation individually designed for each of Russia's 89 regions, Putin asked the regional leaders to put together proposals concerning property ownership and send them to the Duma.

He added that the lack of legislation over land is hurting investment and contributing to the development of corruption and bureaucracy in the regions.

He did not elaborate. But the presidential envoy to the central federal district warned last month that large state-owned commodity traders were already using various schemes to acquire plots of land in hope of selling them at a substantial profit after the Land Code becomes law.

"The lands are effectively bought in advance in anticipation of the liberalization of land legislation," envoy Georgy Poltavchenko was quoted by Rosbizneskonsulting as saying.

Poltavchenko said such practices must be curbed in order to avoid a repeat of the disastrous voucher privatizations of the 1990s which saw a wealthy few end up with billions of dollars worth of assets.

In the wake of land privatization, more than 130 million hectares have been handed over to 43 million land owners, according to the Federal Service of the Russia's Land Register.

Putin has yet to reveal his position on the sale of agricultural land, and to the disappointment of many lawmakers did not comment on the matter Tuesday.

Vladimir Plotnikov, deputy head of the Agrarian faction in the Duma, said Putin's stance on agricultural land is of "the most principal significance."

"All of Putin's suggestions find support in the parliament, so they would play a large role in determining the fate of Russia's farmland," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Communists and Agrarians, who walked out of the Duma in protest of approval of article 17 of the Civil Code on Thursday, are crafting a bill that envisions the government regulating the exchange of agricultural land, Interfax said.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said Tuesday at a briefing that it would be "a crime against the nation" if legislation allowing the sale of agricultural land is passed into law.

"It would be a war," he said. "The country is not ready today to implement the liberals' suggestions."

Yury Korgunyuk, political analyst with the INDEM think tank, said that it is not surprising that Putin has not stated his position on agricultural land sales.

"It's the typical logic of an official," Korgunyuk said. "He is interested in controlling the situation, but doesn't want to reveal his preferences until it is clear which side is taking the lead.

"The only thing clear now is that a lot of battles are looming over the Land Code. Lobbyists will be raging. So it's not surprising that he doesn't want to enter this struggle too early."