Bloomberg News

Moscow May Tighten Rules for Opposition Protests in City Center

March 12, 2012

Moscow authorities may seek to curb protest rallies in the capital because of the disruption they bring to city life, a senior official said.

“We don’t see any point in restricting” the right to protest, Deputy Mayor Alexander Gorbenko told reporters today in Moscow. “But we can’t forget that the city isn’t made up only of protesters, there are 14 million inhabitants. If we are talking about democracy, we need to respect the wishes of the majority.”

Mass protests against alleged electoral fraud brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets in Moscow and other cities starting in December. While the demonstrations showed signs of cooling, with between 10,000 to 25,000 people taking part in a March 10 rally in Moscow, opposition leaders are vowing to keep up protests after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s disputed election to a new Kremlin term on March 4.

The Russian government may select a location in Moscow where citizens can speak their minds, similar to speaker’s corner in London’s Hyde Park, the Interfax news service reported today, citing City Hall’s top cultural official, Sergei Kapkov.

Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biriukov said in a report to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that protests from December until early March caused millions of rubles in budget losses by straining municipal services, according to Interfax. City Hall is considering changes to Russian legislation governing the right to protest in order to minimize the disruption of rallies, Gorbenko said.

“Moscow authorities are afraid of the federal government criticizing them for not doing enough to reduce the level of protests,” Alexander Ryklin, a member of the Solidarity group that’s organizing the anti-government rallies, said by phone. “They don’t realize that any tightening of the rules will only have the opposite effect: it will boost protest activity.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net


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