The Russian upper house of parliament gave fast-track approval today to a disputed draft law that increases fines on protesters 150 times, before a major opposition rally next week.
Lawmakers voted 132-1, with one abstention, to approve the legislation. Pro-government parties in the lower chamber, the State Duma, pushed through the measure late last night after opposition members of parliament held up the vote for 12 hours by submitting hundreds of amendments. The Duma voted 241 to 147, more than the 226 needed, to ratify it in the third and final reading after the Just Russia opposition group walked out in protest.
The law increases the maximum fine for protesters who violate the law to 300,000 rubles ($9,240) from 2,000 rubles and to as much as 600,000 rubles for organizers. The opposition condemned the initiative as an attempt to stifle the constitutional right to free expression.
Police beat demonstrators in Moscow with batons and arrested hundreds of them on May 6 when an authorized protest march by tens of thousands of people on the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration turned violent. More arrests ensued in the following weeks during a series of unsanctioned gatherings.
Activists are protesting non-stop in Moscow, using the Occupy Wall Street movement’s tactics. Opposition groups are planning another “March of Millions” in the center of the Russian capital on June 12.
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