Duma chief warns against ethnic discrimination in Russia

The speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament has warned against putting up "walls between people of different ethnic groups in the heat of political debates."

"The main point is that in discussing strategic issues one must primarily think about people. It is not permissible to put up walls between people of different ethnic groups in the heat of political debates, and especially in the heat of political struggles," State Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin said at a roundtable on the Russian government's ethnic policy.

Respect for each Russian citizen must be at the center of ethnic and any other policy, he insisted.

He pointed out that the Russian Constitution vests the state with the duty of guaranteeing equal rights for everyone regardless of their ethnicity, language, religion or place of residence.

"It is the duty of the State Duma, parliament and other government bodies to strengthen and further develop this system of guarantees, including through federal legislation," he said.

He mentioned that one of Vladimir Putin's first presidential decrees was an order that the Cabinet come up with an ethnic policy strategy before December 1 of this year. Naryshkin said the planned strategy has already been drafted and that the draft is a subject for current public debate.

He also argued it would be wrong to separate ethnic policy from regional policy, one of the latter\'s important current aspects being a plan to grant regional administrations more powers in compiling the budgets for their regions.

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