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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 13:08 GMT
MPs back Putin plan for regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Western leaders have voiced concern about Putin's reforms
Russian President Vladimir Putin has secured parliamentary support for his plan to replace elected regional governors with his own appointees.

The plan was approved by 358 votes to 68 in the lower house, the State Duma.

Now it only has to be passed by the upper house - widely seen as a formality - before becoming law.

The measure has been opposed by Russian liberals and Communists, and western governments concerned that it could undermine democratic advances.

Mr Putin proposed the move after September's deadly mass hostage-taking at a school in Beslan, in the North Caucasus.

He says the change is needed to strengthen the country's defences against terrorism.

The parliament also voted to raise the threshold for registering political parties, by raising the minimum number of members from 10,000 to 50,000.

When Mr Putin unveiled the reforms in September, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Kremlin was "pulling back on some of the democratic reforms".

Chris Patten, at the time the European Union's outgoing external relations commissioner, also questioned the value of the reforms, which he said would boost the Kremlin's power.

Mr Putin says the plans are necessary to combat international terrorism and prevent Russia splitting apart.




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