Boris Yeltsin has ordered his staffers to meet with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy to discuss amendments to the controversial bill on religion which the Russian president last week refused to sign into law. Yeltsin has already said that he favors a law that will prevent dangerous doomsday cults from operating on Russian soil, but says he will not enact any legislation that violates Russia’s constitution by dividing religions into first and second classes. But he is anxious to avoid an open split with the Russian Orthodox Church and other major confessions, including Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, which were to have been granted privileged status under the original bill and whose leaders have all expressed disappointment over the presidential veto.
But Yeltsin may find it even harder to mollify Russia’s parliament. The Duma is expected mount a fierce campaign against what it will portray as Yeltsin’s kowtowing to Western demands. Galina Starovoitova, leader of the small group of parliamentarians who voted against the bill, told a press conference that the original draft was surreptitiously replaced with the current one by Communist deputies whose real aim had nothing to do with fostering spirituality and everything to do with reasserting state control over religious issues. Starovoitova warned Yeltsin that the Communist-dominated Duma might launch an impeachment campaign, accusing the president of an "anti-people" course. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 25)
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