The Russian Duma defied President Boris Yeltsin on April 4 when it approved for the second time a law asserting Russian ownership of works of art seized as booty during World War II. Last month, Yeltsin vetoed the bill, which would allow Russia to keep works by painters including Rembrandt, Monet, and Matisse, as well as the hoard of Trojan gold discovered by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. The Duma’s decision, which mustered well over the two-thirds required to override the presidential veto, will embarrass Yeltsin, who is due to visit Germany next month. Russian nationalist deputies argue that the works of art are some recompense for wrongs suffered at the hands of the Nazis, but the decision will anger countries such as the Netherlands, which were also occupied by Germany and whose artworks also landed up in Russia at war’s end. The bill now goes to the Federation Council. The presidential administration has said that, if the bill is approved by the upper house, Yeltsin will appeal to the Constitutional Court. It is not clear, however, what constitutional grounds there are for such an appeal. (Itar-Tass, AP, Reuters, April 4)
Corruption Scandal in Nizhny Novgorod.