Putin signs last bill in plan to rein in regional bosses

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin on Saturday signed the last of three bills in his plan to tighten Moscow's control over Russia's far-flung provinces, capping his victory over independent-minded regional bosses.

The new law allows provincial governors to fire mayors and local officials who are found to have violated the law, Russia's state-controlled RTR and ORT television reported.

That bill had caused the least debate. The other two were more contentious but were eventually approved by both houses of Parliament last month in what was seen as a key domestic policy victory for the new president.

The first law will oust the regional governors and regional legislative speakers from their seats in the upper house of Parliament, replacing them with appointed legislators by 2002. The regional leaders will also lose their immunity from criminal prosecution.

The second law allows Putin to fire governors who are found to violate the law.

Putin has already signed the first two bills, ORT said. In an apparent effort to appease angry regional leaders, Putin also proposed Saturday that both houses of Parliament create a committee on how to implement the new laws.

The presidential press service could not be reached for comment.

Putin says reining in the regions is necessary to fix Russia's economic problems. Many of the regional governors are highly authoritarian and have pushed for greater autonomy.

But opponents say Putin, who won election in March on a platform of strengthening the state and Russia's global clout, is consolidating too many powers.

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