Russian president Boris Yeltsin has refused to sign into law a bill on works of art seized by the Soviet army in Germany at the end of World War II and has returned it for the second time to the Federation Council. (Itar-Tass, May 22) On May 14, the upper house of the Russian parliament overrode an earlier presidential veto of the controversial bill. Yeltsin argues that the bill infringes international law, violates the right to private property guaranteed by the Russian constitution, poisons Russia’s relations with Germany, and undermines Russia’s chances of reclaiming its own works of arts. Now Yeltsin says the Federation Council violated constitutional procedures when it overrode his veto — an apparent reference to the fact that senators were allowed to submit their votes by mail, a procedure about which the constitution is silent. Yeltsin might have been expected, had he felt on strong constitutional ground, to have appealed against the bill directly to the Constitutional Court. Instead, he seems to be plucking at straws and offering the upper house a graceful way of backing down in what has become an embarrassing battle of wills. Some senators are already having second thoughts. Ingush president Ruslan Aushev said last week that he voted for the law but that, "in my heart, I know it is wrong to take what is not yours." (Izvestia, May 14)
Moscow Offers Support to Damascus.