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Putin Signs Law to Restrict National Referendums

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law restrictions on national referendums. Some lawmakers say those restrictions are aimed at silencing the voices of citizens on critical issues.

The Kremlin Friday announced Mr. Putin's signing of an amendment to change existing law and ban referendums on matters of nationwide importance, such as the budget and taxation.

Russia's parliament adopted the restrictions earlier this month.

Members of the Communist faction in the lower house, the State Duma, promptly walked out in protest. Opponents say the measure strips away the ability of people to express themselves on issues of national importance.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers say the measure was necessary because referendums were being used for political gain.

Separately, the Kremlin announced President Putin today signed into law a bill authorizing Russia's accession to the World Health Organization framework against smoking.

The WHO says smoking kills five million people across the world each year, and that Russians are traditionally heavy smokers.

The treaty commits Russia to banning tobacco advertising within five years of ratification, and it calls for health warnings to cover 30 percent of cigarette packaging within three years.