Moscow: The Russian Duma Lower House on Tuesday voted to ratify the country's accession to the World Trade Organisation after 18 years of negotiations despite strong resistance by opposition parties.

In an unusually tight vote for the Russian parliament, 238 Duma deputies backed the bill and 208 deputies opposed it, with one abstention. It will come into law 30 days after being signed by President Vladimir Putin.

A team of ministers faced the Russian Duma where they were bombarded with questions from opposition deputies.

The final vote plants Russia firmly in the world economy as it is expected to be swiftly approved by the Federation Council upper house and finally signed by the President.

The bill was supported only by lawmakers in the majority party United Russia, Russian agencies reported. But even United Russia's Alexei Pushkov, the parliament's foreign affairs committee chief, said the move is risky.

"Joining the WTO is like jumping into an ice hole," he wrote on Twitter after the vote, referring to the popular Russian winter pastime of swimming in frozen waters.

"If one makes it out, he becomes healthy, if he's carried off by the current, he should not have jumped. The outcome is not clear."

Communist parliament members said in the debate that WTO membership would flood the country with cheap imports, killing the remnants of Russia's Soviet-inherited industry and creating unemployment.

Russia's accession to the WTO was agreed by the organisation after a sometimes tortuous saga that required 18 years of negotiations and was marked by frequent snags and mutual recriminations.


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