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Russia eyes higher demo fines

Jane McintoshJune 5, 2012

A bill to raise the fines for protesters has met unexpected challenges in the Russian parliament.

Russian police detain protesters outside the parliament building in Moscow
Image: dapd

A controversial bill in the Russian parliament's lower house, the State Duma, to increase the fines for unauthorized protests met unexpected challenges on Tuesday.

Legislation was held up as opposition parliamentarians submitted more than 300 amendments and then insisted on reading out each one in detail.

The bill would increase fines to one million rubles (24,352 euros) for organizers and to 300,000 rubles (7,300 euros) for participants of illegal rallies. That represents a 200-fold increase.

The German government's Russia coordinator, Andreas Schockenhoff, criticized the proposed law.

He said the law sent "the wrong signal to the citizens of Russia. Instead of promoting pluralism of ideas, new restrictions threaten to increase the gap between government and citizens."

Schockenhoff said the bill brought into question the will of the Russian government to develop democracy.

Opposition delay tactics

In a tactic known as an "Italian strike" in Russia, opposition members of parliament used delaying tactics to make the parliament postpone its vote on the bill.

For example, Ilya Ponomaryov of the party 'A Just Russia' read out all the numbers of the proposed amendments.

Outside the parliament building, around 20 opposition demonstrators were detained Tuesday morning for protesting against the bill. They say the law violates the 31st article of Russia's constitution on the right to free assembly.

The parliament's lower house is dominated by the ruling United Russia party. It has a majority of votes.

The bill was submitted less than a month ago and passed its first reading on May 22. Opposition groups accuse the Kremlin of fast-tracking the law ahead of a planned mass protest in the capital on June 12.

jm/mz (Reuters, dpa, AFP)