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Russian parliament OKs severe penalty for protesting

Wed., June 6, 2012

MOSCOW – The Kremlin-controlled Russian parliament on Tuesday rammed through a harsh bill that raises fines 150-fold for people taking part in unsanctioned rallies, a move aimed at discouraging the opposition from challenging President Vladimir Putin.

The bill would jack up fines from the current $60 to $9,000, and comes after a series of massive protests that have reflected growing public frustration with Putin’s 12-year rule. The potential punishment is more severe than for many other crimes, including even violations in the storage of nuclear materials.

The opposition factions in the lower house, the State Duma, put forward several hundred amendments in an unprecedented attempt to stymie the bill’s passage, reflecting a new willingness to stand up to the Kremlin.

But members of the Kremlin’s majority United Russia party voted the amendments down one by one. United Russia then used its majority in the 450-seat parliament to approve the bill in the second and third readings.

The Kremlin wants the new bill to become law by next Tuesday when the opposition plans a major protest in Moscow. The bill also will require approval by the upper house and Putin’s signature, but both steps are formalities.

Putin recently has spoken in support of the bill, saying, “We must shield our people from radical actions.”


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