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Law on rally violations comes into force

June 09, 2012, 12:10 UTC+3

The new rules will be applicable already to participants in the next opposition March of Millions planned for June 12, the Russia Day

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MOSCOW, June 9 (Itar-Tass) — The new edition of the Russian law on rallies comes into force from Saturday, as soon as it is published in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta official government daily. The law was finally signed by President Vladimir Putin on Friday, after a two-week pause. It means that the new rules will be applicable already to participants in the next opposition March of Millions planned for June 12, the Russia Day. The opposition however wants to challenge the amended law in the Russian Constitutional Court and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Putin said he had signed the law at a consultation dedicated to issues of improving the Russian court system on Friday, the Kommersant newspaper writes. Raising the issue, the president warned that he had already spoken with chairman of the human rights council Mikhail Fedotov, who had expressed “certain concern of non-government organizations about this law.” But after comparing the Russian law with such laws in other European countries, such as Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, and France, the president arrived at the conclusion that the Russian law “has not a single provision that might be considered as more harsh.” At the same time, he called to analyze the law and its application in order to “tune it” in case the lawmakers had “missed anything.”

Under the amended law, fines for rally violations will be 300,000 roubles for individuals and one million roubles for legal entities, the newspaper reminds. Russia’s regions are allowed to appoint venues for rallies and extend the list of places where it is banned to stage rallies. No participant in a rally may hide his or her face. Organizers of “mass public actions in public places )such as the OccupyAbai opposition camp and Test Walkabouts in Moscow) will be punished even if such rally may “hinder pedestrians.”

President of the Efficient Policy Foundation Gleb Pavlovsky describes the law as “a big mistake of the president.” “The paradox of the situation is that the law was drafted as a kind of preventive measure ahead of the June 12 rally, which may not be the most impressive of all such rallies. And as a result of this law may kill a possibility of a dialogue between public forces and the authorities for a long time,” the newspaper cites him as saying.

“We are taking the toughest provisions of European laws and insert them into our political context, into laws that are to be enforced in Russia, not in, say, France, which has strong mass media and strong civil society, said political scientist Alexei Makarkin.

“I blame myself for failing to bring my own point of view on the already adopted law home to the president. I must have done my best to try to persuade the president that this law, to put it mildly, is not perfect,” chairman of the human rights council Mikhail Fedotov told the Kommersant.

The opposition however said it would challenge this law. The Communist party, the only one from among the parliamentary opposition, has already announced its plans to challenge the law. According to Vadim Solovyev, a lawmaker and secretary of the Communist party’s central committee, the party will file an appeal to the Constitutional Court within two months.

The Kremlin officials and leaders of the ruling United Russia party made no secret of their plans to have the bill passed into law before June 12, the day when the opposition plans to stage another big protest action, the Vedomosti newspaper writes. A party member close to the Kremlin administration put it straight: the law is called to have moderate opposition break away from radicals, the so-called “professional revolutionaries.” Big fines are meant to damp down the enthusiasm of the former, which may help crack down on the latter.

Experts however, including Russia’s human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin, believe that the new law would only escalate tensions in society, the newspaper writes. Thus, Lukin warns of a possible new wave of unauthorized rallies and protest actions, which would only aggravate the situation.

Big fines will not avert even moderate opposition, this stage has already been passed, said lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, a participant in civil protest actions in May. Peope are not afraid, they are irritated, he said and predicted a growing number of protesters.

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