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Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Russia moves closer to land reform
Protesters with banner - We won't allow the sale of land
Protesters outside the Duma condemn the sale of land
By Jonathan Charles in Moscow

Russia's parliament has given the provisional go-ahead to a law which would allow the free sale of land not used for farming.

The move is seen as a major victory in the Russian Government's efforts to reform the country's economy, as well as a boost to President Vladimir Putin's reformist credentials.

The Lower House of the Russian parliament has given a second reading to the legislation.

The law still has to pass a third reading later in the year and it will also go before the Upper House of parliament.
Violence in the Duma
Last time the issue was debated, fights broke out

But it now seems virtually certain to be adopted.

Historic

The law only applies to non-farming land, representing about 2% of the country's total.

But it is still considered historic.

Most land currently belongs to the government, just as it did in communist times, when the prevailing ideology demanded that the state owned the means of economic production.

Now the government hopes the change will attract foreign investors, bringing much-needed money into the Russian economy.

Fierce opposition

The legislation has been opposed fiercely by Communist deputies in the parliament.

The Orthodox Church has also said that land should be held in common ownership.

Many people fear that if the law comes into force they will be dispossessed. Land which they currently live on will be just bought up by a few rich owners.

President Putin has tried to calm their worries. He believes it is a crucial part of persuading the outside world that Russia is becoming a modern economy.

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See also:

15 Jun 01 | Europe
Duma punch-up over land reform
01 Feb 00 | Europe
Russia's reform assurance
19 Jul 00 | Business
IMF backs Russian reform
11 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Russia
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