06/07/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA

Crackdown on demonstrations on the eve of the new anti-Putin march

by Nina Achmatova
After Duma go ahead, the Russian Senate also approves the bill that tightens sanctions on those who engage in unauthorized demonstrations. Citizens risk having to pay up to 7 thousand euros. To become law it only needs the signature of the President.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A controversial bill that exponentially increases the penalties for those who engage in unauthorized demonstrations is awaiting the signature of President Vladimir Putin to become law. According to the defenders of human rights, the text undermines the right to demonstrate freely, established in the Federal Constitution.

The controversial bill received yesterday, June 6, the green light from the Federation Council, after approval by the Duma yesterday, following an unprecedented debate which lasted 11 hours. The 1990s at the time of Yeltsin - whose parliament is remembered as the most unruly of modern Russia - was the last time such a heated session was witnessed with the opposition that brought a shower of amendments to the document proposed by the party majority United Russia.

For those taking part in unauthorized demonstrations, the new rules will increase prior sanctions by 200%: you may pay a maximum of 300 thousand rubles (7 thousand euros) for individuals, 600 thousand rubles for public officials (14 thousand euros) and one million rubles (23 thousand euros) for legal entities. To incur the fines  it will be sufficient "to be gathered together at once" in a particular place. A clarification, which would seek to hinder even the most creative forms of protest staged by the opposition in recent months, such as walking the streets, sit-in in the parks or just showing off white ribbons, a symbol of protest.

In order to become law, the text just needs the signature of Putin. The head of the Federal Council for Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, has already announced he will ask the head of the Kremlin to veto the document, considered contrary to Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. Criticisms of the new law came not only from Russian opposition political forces, including from organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, has announced that the president "will listen to all voices" before making  his decision. But hopes that the bill be rejected are very few: two days ago, Putin himself expressed support of the initiative, which - according to him- would unite Russia to legislation already in force in Europe.

If there are no unforeseen obstacles, the law could come into force on June 10, the eve of the next big anti-government demonstration called by the opposition in Moscow. This is a record time, note some lawmakers questioned by Russian media. "In the recent past - remembers senator Lyudmila Narusova - we voted with such speed only for entry into war" against Georgia in 2008.

 

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