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Russian opposition supporters protest new repressive law

By Francesca Ebel Associated Press

MOSCOW – About 1,000 Russian opposition supporters rallied in Moscow Tuesday to protest a controversial new legislation that offers new sweeping powers to security agencies.

The set of counter-terrorism amendments initiated by the hawkish lawmaker Irina Yarovaya has sparked outrage among rights activists. Among other things, it introduces prison sentences for failure to report a grave crime and obliges telecommunications companies to store call logs and data for months.

President Vladimir Putin signed the amendments into law last month.

Protesters, who gathered Tuesday in Moscow’s Sokolniki park, denounced the new legislation as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to stifle protest ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections. The rally, which had been sanctioned by authorities, proceeded peacefully as police watched from the sidelines.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who played a key role in organizing massive protests in Moscow against Putin’s rule in 2011-2012, said in a rousing speech that it’s time for the opposition to return to the streets and that “everything depends on us.”

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin described the new legislation as a “reflection of horror and fear of the government.”

“They try to control everything, absolutely everything,” he said. “If we don’t resist it, then we will find ourselves in the world of Big Brother where everyone is being watched from everywhere. All our conversations are being listened to, all our messages are being read – it’s a very unpleasant perspective.”

Referring to the new legislation as “the Big Brother law,” Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina described it as “clearly yet another tool for the government to use against its’ opponents.”

“There has been a tremendous crackdown on free expression in Russia since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin back in 2012, and the `Yarovaya Law’ will be a particularly destructive tool,” she said.

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