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Russia: Yeltsin Signs Religion Law

Moscow, 26 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin has signed into law legislation dealing with religious freedoms in Russia.

A Kremlin statement today said Yeltsin has signed the federal law on freedom and conscience and religious organizations. The move was expected, despite heavy criticism from the west, which labeled it as "discriminatory."

Critics say the law enshrines the Russian Orthodox Church as the country's pre-eminent religion and limits the activities of other religious groups, such as Protestants and Roman Catholics who have become increasingly active in Russia since the Soviet collapse.

Russia's Orthodox Church and nationalists have argued that the country was flooded by dangerous religions.

Parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to approve the measure on Wednesday, and the lower house (Duma) approved it overwhelmingly last week. Yeltsin vetoed the original bill in July.