Putin Signs Controversial Bill That Increases Protest Fines

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial bill that dramatically raises fines for people involved in unauthorized rallies.

Mr. Putin says he signed the bill despite a request from the head of his human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, for him to veto it. Russia's Interfax news agency quotes Fedotov as saying the bill might have “sad consequences.”

The bill, introduced by the ruling United Russia party, was approved this week by both the upper and lower houses in parliament.

It raises the maximum fine on an individual illegal street protester from about $60 to about $9,000, introduces the optional sentence of compulsory community service of up to 200 hours, and makes other changes aimed at stifling unsanctioned rallies. Organizers of illegal protests face up to $30,000 in fines.

Friday's signing of the bill into law comes days before Russia's opposition plans to stage another mass rally against the possible 12-year rule of Mr. Putin, a scenario many Russians find unsettling.

Critics say the law will increase tensions in Russian society and make it difficult to hold protests. The Kremlin says the law is meant to keep ordinary citizens safe.

Earlier this week, Mr. Putin's press secretary said the president would oppose the law only if it runs counter to the free speech practices of European countries.

Mr. Putin was elected to a record third presidential term in March. He served as president from 2000 to 2008, before becoming prime minister under former president Dmitry Medvedev.

A constitutional amendment has extended the president's time in office to two consecutive six-year terms, meaning Mr. Putin could stay in power until 2024.