Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that increases fines on protesters 150 fold before a planned opposition rally in central Moscow next week.
The legislation is in line with European practice, Putin said at a meeting with judges in St. Petersburg today. “There isn’t a single aspect of our law that is harsher” than in France, the U.K., Germany or Italy, he said.
“The enforcement of this law should in no way violate people’s democratic rights to expression regarding any issues of domestic and foreign policy, including via rallies,” Putin said. The document was published in Russia’s official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta dated June 9 and takes effect the date of its publication.
Russian lawmakers this week approved the bill to increase the maximum fine for protesters who violate the law to 300,000 rubles ($9,160) from 2,000 rubles and to as much as 600,000 rubles for organizers.
Putin, who last month returned to the presidency for a third term, has faced the biggest challenge to his authority as tens of thousands of Russians took part in demonstrations since parliamentary elections in December. The opposition, which received permission today to hold its planned “march of millions” in Moscow on June 12, condemned the initiative as an attempt to stifle the constitutional right to free assembly.
A presidential human rights commission asked Putin not to sign the measure into law, saying it violates the constitution. The Moscow Mayor’s office authorized a march on June 12 that will end with a rally on Prospekt Sakharov, Sergei Davidis, a member of the Solidarity opposition umbrella movement, was cited as saying by the Gazeta.ru online news service.
Russia may charge two more people with participating in mass unrest and using violence against police, crimes that carry a maximum sentence of eight years in jail, the Investigative Committee also said today.
The charges relate to a mass protest in Moscow on May 6 against Putin’s re-election, the law-enforcement agency in Moscow said on its website. Prosecutors have charged one person with these offenses.
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