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Anti-rally laws toughening in RF regions

November 21, 2012, 12:26 UTC+3

In the view of experts, this is happening on orders from Moscow, which is going to stop any opposition activity

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 The Voronezh Regional Duma has proposed to ban opposition rallies on sidewalks and areas adjacent to motor roads. In the view of experts, this is happening on orders from Moscow, which is going to stop any opposition activity. A complete ban on rallies near buildings of state bodies of authority will be considered next week by the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg.

The rally activity of Voronezh opposition forces may soon be reduced to nothing, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes. The amendments to the law on rallies that are considered by the regional Duma on the instructions of the governor, propose to ban public events on sidewalks and areas adjacent to motor roads – that is, almost everywhere. The prohibitive amendments have evoked a wave of indignation, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reports. Indeed, the list of sites where it is planned to ban public gatherings is quite extensive: in addition to the railway terminals and hospitals, which is quite understandable, it is planned to ban rallies also at cultural, sports and entertainment centres.

Public actions will also be banned in those parts of the city where their conduct may violate the transport infrastructure. That is, the opposition is actually offered to forget about the processions with road closures. They will also not be able to use sidewalks – they have also been put on the governor’s list. And the apotheosis of this is a ban on mass actions “in the areas adjacent to motor roads.” Everything falls under the latter definition, shocked local human rights activists have concluded. It is also proposed to provide for each rally participant at least one square metre of space. According to such standards, hardly any area in the centre of Voronezh will be able to accommodate a large rally.

The newspaper also reports that the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly next week will consider similar amendments to the law on rallies that include a ban on staging action near the buildings of bodies of state authority – without any adequate reason. “Show me at least one European city, except Minsk, where it is forbidden to rally, for example, in front of the parliament building,” the newspaper quotes member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Maxim Reznik.

Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta in an interview that they are convinced that what is happening – it’s not just tyranny of individual officials, but a focused strategy initiated by the federal centre to further restrict the rights of the Russians discontent with the government. However, the federal centre had in advance distanced itself from this activity, the experts have concluded. For example, head of the Petersburg Politics Foundation Mikhail Vinogradov believes that the regional leaders are successfully implementing the federal crackdown course.

The RBC Daily writes about the initiative of St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov to introduce the procedure of approval of social and political mass events near places of worship with the heads of religious communities, which has risen eyebrows even among the Russian Orthodox Church representatives and has been criticized by the police. Experts do not understand how the organisers of rallies will try to find out who owns the territories adjacent to churches. The author of the bill does not give up and promises to put it to the vote of the city legislature in mid-December.

The newspaper recalls that Milonov in early October submitted to the St. Petersburg legislature a draft resolution on amending the Federal Laws “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” and “On meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets.” The document introduced the rule on the approval of mass public and political actions by the heads of religious communities.”

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