EU ′concerned′ about new Russian protests legislation | News | DW | 07.06.2012
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EU 'concerned' about new Russian protests legislation

The European Union says it is concerned about Russian legislation that would increase fines for people taking part in unauthorized protests. President Putin has yet to sign it into law.

The European Union has expressed concern about a controversial law passed by the Russian parliament which would dramatically increase fines for people who take part in unauthorized demonstrations.

"We are concerned about the possible implications of this bill," Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for the EU's foreign policy coordinator, Catherine Ashton said on Thursday.

"As a neighbour and as Russia's strategic partner, the EU believes that the recent civic activism offers a valuable opportunity for the state to engage in a constructive dialogue with civil society," Kocijancic added.

Fines increased 60-fold

The new legislation, which has not yet been signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, would see protesters taking part in unauthorized rallies facing fines of up to 300,000 rubles (7,400 euros, $9,100), which is more than the average annual salary in Russia. The previous maximum fine had been 5,000 rubles.

The bill, which critics see as coming in response to anti-Putin protests ahead of his re-election as president, was passed by both houses of parliament earlier this week. While opposition lawmakers in the Duma expressed their displeasure by dragging out the debate, the upper house Federation Council passed it by a vote of 132 to one with one

Putin has defended the bill as being in line with European norms. There was no official word on when he was expected to sign it into law, but members of the opposition have said they expect him to do so before next Tuesday, which is a public holiday in Russia. Demonstrations are planned.

pfd/msh (Reuters, AFP)