Tough anti-protest law signed by Putin


RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin signed into law yesterday a Bill that will dramatically increase fines for people who take part in protests that violate public order rules, just days ahead of the next planned rally against his 12-year rule.

Mr Putin told a meeting of top judges in his native St Petersburg that he decided to sign the Bill despite objections from his human rights adviser, Mikhail Fedotov, who asked the president to veto it.

Participants in protests where public order is violated could now face fines of 300,000 roubles (€7,390) more than the average annual salary and up from 1,000 roubles (€24.60). The organisers of such rallies could be fined up to a million roubles (€24,600).

Mr Putin, who has largely ignored a wave of protests that weakened his grip before his return to the presidency, said the law would prevent demonstrations from turning into the sort of mass unrest seen in Europe, with cars being burnt and stores looted.

“By guaranteeing some citizens the right to express their opinions, including on the streets, society must protect other citizens from radicalism,” he said.

Opposition leaders said the Kremlin rushed the law through so it could be in place before an opposition demonstration planned for Tuesday and say the Bill could radicalise the opposition movement.

Just hours after the law was signed, Mr Putin’s opponents took to Twitter pledging their support for the rally, dubbed the March of Millions. “Putin signed the law on demonstration fines. But it won’t stop me personally,” said a tweet from a founder of Moscow gay parade, Nicolai Alexeyev, reflecting a popular message.

The Moscow mayor’s office approved the route for a 50,000-person march along a central ring road followed by a demonstration on Prospekt Sakharova, the site of one the first anti-Putin protests in December, hours after the law was signed.