Putin Signs Harsh Antiprotest Law

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    Jun 08, 2012 8:52 PM GMT
    Most RJ members probably don't give a damn about this, but just to note the pathetic stance of the Obama administration is to hope Putin will "do the right thing" and influence Syria to stop killing its citizens.


    MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Friday that raises the fines for participating in unauthorized protests 150-fold, to nearly the average annual salary in Russia.

    Mr. Putin said the law was designed to safeguard Russians from "radicalism."

    Since returning to the presidency, Mr. Putin has cracked down on the opposition, and he seems to be betting that by threatening demonstrators with prison time and harsh fines he can quash the street protests that have posed a challenge to his 12-year rule.

    "In guaranteeing citizens' right to express their opinion, including in street rallies, society must protect other citizens, the general public, from radicalism," he said in televised remarks. He added, however, that the law may be amended if necessary.

    His strategy faces a test on Tuesday when the opposition plans its first mass demonstration since he began his third presidential term on May 7.

    Some opposition leaders contend that the tough line will help their cause by fueling anger and bringing more people out for next week's protest. Others say the repression will scare away the middle-class protesters who turned out in the tens of thousands for peaceful demonstrations this winter.

    Mr. Putin is declining to talk with the opposition.

    "He understands only one language, the language of force, and therefore he perceives any normal discussion and any rational compromise as personal weakness," said Yevgenia Chirikova, an environmental activist who has campaigned against Kremlin-backed road construction that is destroying a forest outside Moscow.

    The anti-Putin protests broke out after the December election, which observers said was riddled with fraud in favor of Putin's party, and continued in the run-up to the March presidential vote. As many as 100,000 people turned out in the frigid cold for demonstrations demanding free elections, and the streets of Moscow rang with cries of "Russia Without Putin" and "Putin Is a Thief."

    Although he was denied a majority in Moscow, Mr. Putin won the election to return to the Kremlin post he had held from 2000 to 2008 before moving into the prime minister's office to avoid violating a constitutional ban on more than two consecutive terms.

    With the election over, the protest movement seemed to fade.

    But on the eve of Mr. Putin's inauguration, an opposition march and rally drew tens of thousands, far more than either the organizers or the police had expected. The demonstration turned violent after police restricted access to the square where the rally was to be held.

    In the days that followed, police chased opposition activists around the city, detaining hundreds.

    Then the crackdown eased, as the authorities allowed the opposition to set up camp on a leafy boulevard. But there were strings attached: The organizers could not put up placards or make political demands, since that would technically turn the camp into an unsanctioned protest.

    The authorities tolerated the camp for about a week before getting a court to rule that the activists were creating a mess in the neighborhood, giving police the legal right to disperse them.

    The anti-protest legislation also provides police with new powers against such Occupy-style camps. "Large-scale public gatherings" can be banned and the organizers fined if they disrupt public order.

    The bill was pushed through the Kremlin-controlled parliament this week in an effort to get it in place before Tuesday's big protest.

    Some opposition leaders had held out hope that Mr. Putin would decline to sign it. Others, however, thought he would support it, pointing to a comment by Mr. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov after the violence on the eve of the inauguration. Protesters who hurt riot police, he said, "should have their livers smeared on the asphalt."
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    Jun 08, 2012 8:57 PM GMT
    Russia and Belarus becoming more and more alike.
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    Jun 08, 2012 9:06 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidRussia and Belarus becoming more and more alike.

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    Jun 08, 2012 9:19 PM GMT
    socalfitness said
    pocketnico saidRussia and Belarus becoming more and more alike.


    Fortunately many Russians haven't slowed down on leaving the country. However, Russia is the #2 immigrant destination in the world after the United States. Do people from other former Soviet republics really want to put themselves through this in Russia? It's tempting to say that a life of poverty in the Caucasus and Central Asia sounds better.