Yeltsin pushes constitution placing individuals' rights above those of state

November 03, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin pushed lawmakers yesterday to adopt a draft constitution that he said would place the rights of individuals above the rights of the state for the first time in the country's history.

The lawmakers gave preliminary approval to the draft constitution on the closing day of a momentous session of the Congress of People's Deputies, the Russian republic's parliament, during which Mr. Yeltsin won broad new powers to implement his radical economic reform plan.

By promoting the new constitution in his last address to the congress, Mr. Yeltsin was apparently trying to assure both lawmakers and the world that, although he had won broad new authority, he does not intend to use it to set up a dictatorship.

"The draft [constitution] contains secure legal guarantees against totalitarianism, against supremacy of ideology and against violence as a state ideology," the 60-year-old president said in a Kremlin address.

One part of the draft constitution, called the declaration on the rights and freedoms of a person and citizen, resembles the U.S. Bill of Rights.

"It was written in the spirit of the American document," said Viktor L. Sheinis, a member of parliament's constitutional commission and an author of the draft now under consideration.

Lawmakers "passed for consideration" the draft constitution and sent it back to committees for revision to be ready for submission to the next congress, scheduled for March.

For the first time, the Russian parliament took the main political stage away from the Soviet parliament. That reflected the

dramatic shift of power from the Soviet government to the government of the republics after the August coup.

But, the Associated Press reported, the new constitution is running into opposition from ethnic groups.

"I am categorically against the articles in this draft, which suggest that Russians can take our land and . . . our diamonds and gold," said Dmitri Bubyakin, a lawmaker from the resource-rich Siberian territory of Yakutia, which has declared its intention to become independent of Russia.

Lawmaker Muhammed Tupov said the constitution would continue "the process of usurping the rights of the autonomous [republics] and turn the Russian Federation into a unitarian state infringing on the independence of autonomous regions."

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