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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Returns Amid Finger-Pointing

VedomostiMironov, of A Just Russia, shaking hands with Medvedev in the Kremlin, as Gryzlov, of United Russia, watches.

The Communists poured scorn on United Russia when the State Duma reconvened for a special session Friday to revise a bill that the Federation Council rejected despite strong support from the Kremlin and Cabinet.

The rejection represented a very unusual malfunctioning of the normally obedient parliament, and lawmakers were quick to cast it as a result of poor coordination rather than a revolt.

A handful of deputies and senators debated the bill in a joint mediation committee for just two hours before the Duma voted to approve the amended bill, which would allow universities to set up enterprises to commercialize high-tech inventions.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who also heads the United Russia faction, walked past the press point without even looking at the reporters during a break in the session. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, however, leaped at the chance to poke his political rival.

“It’s a bad sign that the ruling party can’t handle the management,” Zyuganov said. “If they can’t agree on such a small bill, how will they be able to agree on the more complicated issues?”

Another Communist, Anatoly Lokot, told fellow lawmakers: “I have trouble understanding what’s going on. … Today’s situation is scandalous.”

One of the two amendments backed by the mediation committee requires universities to seek government approval before contributing state funds or property to their high-tech enterprises. The other would oblige universities to inform the government when they set up such enterprises.

The Federation Council, which voted down the bill on July 18 on the grounds that it could encourage embezzlement of state assets, will reconsider the modified legislation at a special session Monday, a spokeswoman said.

The parliament is reconvening from recess on orders from President Dmitry Medvedev, who backed the bill vocally on the day before it was voted down and said it was part of efforts to fight unemployment. Of the Duma’s 450 deputies, 444 turned up for Friday’s session.

The bill’s rejection was an embarrassment for United Russia, showing — as Medvedev put it — a “lack of coordination” with the government. The United Russia faction, which is so large it can unilaterally approve changes in the Constitution, did not take into account the Finance Ministry’s amendments for the bill.

A Finance Ministry spokesman said the ministry had no comment Friday.

United Russia, which sponsored the bill, made an apparent attempt to cast blame toward the other pro-government party, A Just Russia, whose chairman, Sergei Mironov, is Federation Council speaker.

Deputy Valery Chereshnev, of A Just Russia, was responsible for shepherding the bill through as chairman of the Science and Science-Intensive Technology Committee, which supervised the legislation, United Russia Deputy Grigory Balykhin said in comments posted Thursday on the Duma’s web site.

On Friday, the Duma removed a Just Russia deputy from its representatives on the mediation committee.

Federation Council Deputy Speaker Svetlana Orlova struck a conciliatory note at the session.

“When the president sets us a task, we have to fulfill it in a quiet and competent way,” she said.