Washington, 23 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A leading U.S. Senator has welcomed Russian President Boris Yeltsin's veto of a bill that would have restricted religious freedom in Russia.
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), in a statement late yesterday, said he was pleased with the veto and praised Yeltsin for his courage and resolve. But Lugar warned that the Duma could still override the veto and said, "This is a moment of satisfaction, not celebration."
The bill, passed by both houses of the Duma earlier this month, would have imposed limits on the activities of some minority religions. The legislation named Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism as traditional religions in Russia. Other faiths would have to wait 15 years to win official status and property rights.
Lugar, an influential member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Yeltsin, signed by 160 members of the U.S. Congress, protesting the bill. U.S. lawmakers also drafted legislation to cut all U.S. aid to Russia if the religious bill becomes law.