Moscow, 26 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's lower house of parliament today approved a bill legalizing private ownership of farmland for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The State Duma approved the bill in its third and final reading by 258 to 149 votes, with five abstentions. The bill is still to be voted on in the Federation Council upper house, where its passage is widely expected, and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, who has strongly backed the measure.
Russia's 1993 Constitution allows for private land ownership but until now there was no legal mechanism for the sale of farmland. Last year parliament passed a Land Code that permitted limited land sales but did not address the specific -- and more contentious -- issue of farmland.
The new bill allows foreigners to lease farmland but bars them from purchasing it.