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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Small Spat Erupts in New Duma

A renowned singer and an acclaimed film director protested the election of a lawyer as chairman of the State Duma's Culture Committee at a session where old faces were re-elected to most senior positions, including Speaker Boris Gryzlov.

United Russia easily pushed through its members as the heads of 26 of the Duma's 32 committees at an opening session Monday. The other three factions won the remaining chairmanships, in contrast to the previous Duma where United Russia kept all the posts.

In a rare show of disunity, United Russia deputies Iosif Kobzon, the singer, and Stanislav Govorukhin, the film director, challenged the selection of lawyer Grigory Ivliyev to the Culture Committee.

"I think it's offending and undermines the authority of United Russia," Govorukhin said. "We wanted to create a healthy party, but what we have is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."

Deputies laughed but confirmed Ivliyev to replace Kobzon on the committee.

Ivliyev, a first-time deputy, was chief legal adviser in the previous Duma.

Govorukhin declined to be named deputy chairman and, with Kobzon, signed up for the Information Policy Committee.

First Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov called Govorukhin's refusal a mistake and defended Ivliyev's election. "A chairman of this committee does not necessarily have to be a big name in culture," he said, Interfax reported.

Senior Duma posts also went to United Russia's newcomers Svetlana Zhurova, an Olympic champion in speed skating; and Nadezhda Gerasimova, a former deputy emergency situations minister.

Lyubov Sliska was demoted from first deputy speaker to deputy speaker, while Valery Yazev, chairman of the Russian Gas Society, an industry lobby group, was promoted to deputy speaker. Both belong to United Russia.

The other five deputy speakers held the same posts in the last Duma: Yury Volkov and Vyacheslav Volodin of United Russia, Alexander Babakov of A Just Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Communist Ivan Melnikov.

Several Duma committees were split into new committees. Martin Shakkum, former chairman of the Industry, Construction and Technology Committee, which oversaw the key strategic foreign investors bill, now heads the Construction and Land Committee. Shakkum said in comments posted on his personal web site on Monday that his new committee would take over the bill.

Chairpeople from United Russia cover areas such as defense, financial markets, budget, taxes, property, land, construction, security, natural resources, foreign affairs and energy.

A Just Russia will oversee family and science; the Liberal Democratic Party has the committees on relations with former Soviet republics and youth affairs; and Communists have the committees on industry and nationalities.

Communist Deputy Oleg Kulikov said having two faction members as chairmen was an improvement. "It's a step toward a more civilized attitude toward parliamentary opposition than was in the previous Duma," he said.

Kulikov, however, downplayed the significance of the appointments. "It doesn't change the situation," he said. "The majority in every committee belongs to United Russia."