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Russian Duma Votes Through 'Anti-Skinhead' Bill

June 23, 2002

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers gave their final backing on Thursday to a Kremlin-sponsored bill aiming to clamp down on extremist activity, despite liberal concerns that the law lacked safeguards to prevent abuses.

The bill outlaws the spread of propaganda based on racial or national superiority, the use of Nazi symbols, the creation of armed groups and calls for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order.

Right-wing "skinhead" groups regularly attack Moscow markets operated by traders from the Caucasus region on Russia's southern fringe. In April dozens of foreign embassies received xenophobic threats on the eve of Adolf Hitler's birthday.

Earlier this month, in Moscow's worst violence in years, hundreds of soccer fans rampaged through the city after Russia lost to Japan in the World Cup finals, killing one schoolboy.

"Now Russia is on a par with other civilized countries, with tough anti-extremism legislation," Pavel Krasheninnikov, who heads the legislative committee of the State Duma, or lower house, told deputies.

The third reading of the bill, rushed through the 450-seat Duma in less than a month, was backed by 275 deputies with 145 votes against.

It must now be approved by the Federation Council upper house before going to President Vladimir Putin, the prime mover behind the measure, for signature into law.

During the bill's second reading the Communist Party and the liberal Yabloko Party argued its focus on banning "ideological, political, racial, national or religious hatred or differences" was too sweeping and could be open to abuse.

See also:
YABLOKO Against Extremism

Reuters , June 23, 2002

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