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Russia: State Duma Passes Bill On Trophy Art

Moscow, April 4, 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Russian State Duma today overode a presidential veto today by approving a controversial bill that would prevent the return of artworks taken from Germany by the Red Army during World War II.

The Duma, as well as the upper house, the Federation Council, had previously approved the bill. But President Boris Yeltsin vetoed it last month, saying it was one-sided and "disregards commonly accepted rules of international law."

The vote today in the 450-seat Communist-dominated lower chamber of Parliament was 308 to 15 with eight abstentions, more than the two-thirds majority needed to override Yeltsin's veto.

If the Federation Council also approves the bill with a two-thirds majority, Yeltsin will have to sign it into law.

The bill declares all cultural artifacts now on Russian territory, or transferred to the Soviet Union as compensation for its war losses, to be "federal property," regardless of whose hands the artifacts are now in. It concerns some 200,000 works of art.