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St. Petersburg deputies want to close the whole centre of the city for rallies

June 21, 2012, 12:19 UTC+3

The relevant bill was submitted in the city parliament

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MOSCOW, June 21 (Itar-Tass) - The committee for the law and order and lawfulness at the St. Petersburg parliament intends to close the whole centre of the city for rallies. The relevant bill was submitted in the city parliament. The bill set the places, where the rallies will be banned. These restrictions evoked misunderstanding even among United Russia deputies, who delayed the bill to autumn.

The formally developed bill brings the regional legislation in compliance with the new federal law on rallies, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported. But members of the specific committee, which was to present the bill, took the task in the creative way and closed a greater part of the city for demonstrators, even those places, where street actions were permitted before. If the bill is approved in the current reading, all main squares in the city will be closed for rallies and demonstrations. Representatives of the parliamentary opposition already stated about their intentions to oppose the bill in this reading.

Deputy Alexander Kobrinsky told the Kommersant daily that at a meeting of the committee of the Legislative Assembly a city official acknowledged that the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Office was not interested about the public opinion on this issue. “Before the voting on this bill the Yabloko faction intends to hold parliamentary hearings with the broad participation of the parties concerned – organizers of the rallies and oppositionists,” Kobrinsky pledged. Even United Russia deputy Konstantin Serov called this list of banned places excessive. “They intend to ban most venues, I hope that they will be ready for debates and this list will be changed drastically by autumn. But we should approve this bill, bringing it in compliance with the federal law, not to face the protests of the prosecutor’s office over our negligence,” Serov said. However, the deputies decided to delay the bill, as their summer vacations will begin in a week.

After numerous rallies and marches in the last few months that almost all the time ended in the clashes with police and detentions with various degrees of rudeness, the authorities of Moscow and St. Petersburg decided to ease up their task, actually ousting the protesting public in restricted areas, the Novye Izvestia daily believes. Moscow authorities offered to the Muscovites to choose one place, where they can gather to express their protests over the problems, but without authorizing this protest action. The Muscovites were offered to choose between the Bolotnaya Square, the place at the demolished Rossiya Hotel, the Luzhniki sport complex, the Sokolniki Park and the Gorky Park.

The opposition took this idea cautiously. “This may be a nice wrapping for a distasteful candy,” member of the Solidarity political council Nadezhda Mityushkina said. “On the one hand, it is good that there will be a place, where people can meet, but are afraid of detentions or want to voice their position and get acquainted with their likeminded fellows. On the other hand, there is a threat that they would like to push us in one place. The investigation into the May 6 disorders does not show the goodwill of the authorities and you began to be scared a little bit about their initiatives,” she said.

The St. Petersburg authorities did not lag behind their Moscow counterparts, the Novye Izvestia daily continued. The Legislative Assembly Committee for the law and order and lawfulness offers to set the list of places, which are banned for protests. The leader of the St. Petersburg office of the United Civil Front Olga Kurnosova called the initiative of the lawmakers as “absolute nonsense.” “They will provoke protests themselves, if they approve this bill,” she told the newspaper. “This will mean that authorized rallies will end, people will meet where they want to, without filing any notifications. I believe that this is the indicators of a very heavy condition of the incumbent authorities,” she said. The politician noted that those places, where the opposition traditionally held its actions, are banned in the bill.

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