Moscow, 25 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation today that opens up the sale and private ownership of agricultural land, which had been severely restricted since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The law applies to 24 percent of Russian territory, and supporters say it is vital for the development of agriculture. Most Russian farmland remains the property of collective farms whose structure has changed little since the Soviet era. The law bans foreigners from buying Russian farm land.
The Communists strongly opposed the legislation, saying wealthy Russians and foreigners would end up with much of the land. But the lower house, the State Duma, passed the bill at the end of June and the upper house, the Federation Council, passed the legislation earlier this month.