People participating in unlawful or unsanctioned protests in Russia may be forced to pay fines to cover any damages caused or will be subject to days of compulsory community service.
With other countries planning to impose heavy penalties, including jail time on protesters, Russia is taking a softer approach.
A group of MPs in United Russia are proposing the imposition of significantly higher fines for unlawful or unsanctioned rallies, or alternatively making the protesters perform compulsory community service, such as sweeping the streets.
The new bill proposes that organizers of street rallies should pay up to US$3,400 for such violations and individual participants in the protests would pay up to US$340. These amendments to the bill were submitted to State Duma yesterday.
The current maximum penalty for violations is approximately US$67.
In the case of sanctioned rallies, lawmakers also wish to introduce tougher punishment for forcing others to participate in such events. In this case the fine is proposed to be increased from US$10 currently to up to $3,400 for citizens, and civil servants would pay up to $6,700.
The alternative administrative punishment will be up to 200 hours of compulsory community service, which currently is only imposed for criminal offences.
MP Aleksandr Sidyakin, the author of this initiative wrote in his Twitter microblog recently: “Our law protects protesters, but doesn’t protect citizens who can’t get home [because of the gatherings]. Participants of events leave piles of litter.”
Sidyakin has pointed out that the new proposed sanctions are "humane" in comparison to those used elsewhere. For instance in Geneva, participants in unlawful rallies may face up to 100,000 euro in fines or a 5-year ban on participating in rallies. In France, local authorities can ban any rallies of their choice and in Spain if new laws are passed, anyone found guilty of instigating and performing violent acts of protest will be subject to a minimum jail term of 2 years.
RIA Novosti reported that Sidyakin told reporters:
“Organizers of public actions often instigate participants to violate the law. Indeed, this cultivates legal nihilism and even anarchism among citizens. Recent events have shown that some organizers and participants of political protests deliberately do everything to get detained [in front of camera lenses],”
Sidyakin believes that if arrests are replaced with large fines and compulsory community service, there will be "no illusions about pseudo heroism” of detained protesters.
Vedomosti Daily reports that opposition leaders disagree and Ilya Yashin, one of the leaders of the movement Solidarity, believes the move is set to make it easier for authorities to repress opposition.
Yashin believes that if these amendments by United Russia are passed, fines will become the main punishment for protesters in unsanctioned rallies.
However, he did state that activists are ready for such developments and that it would be easy to collect the money for the fines from supporters using the internet.
Eduard Limonov, leader of the Other Russia movement is reported as saying: “Well, if they make us sweep streets, journalists would immediately gather to watch it."