Russia 2012: Dangerous Gathering

Russia 2012: Dangerous Gathering

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Jun 21, 2013


In June 2012 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Federal Law "On the Introduction of Amendments in the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Violations,” as well as the federal law "On Meetings, Demonstrations, Gatherings, Marches and Pickets."

The draft law about the organization of such public events triggered quite a discussion in Russia. It would be enough to say that it took deputies nearly 12 hours to discuss the amendments to the draft law during the second and third reading. It was fast-tracked through parliament ahead of another planned anti-Putin rally in Moscow, due June 12. The law is very controversial and increases the maximum fines for protest-related offenses, allows judges to sentence protesters to community service and bars them from wearing masks.

New legislation introduces fines of up to 600,000 rubles ($18,000) for violations during rallies and bans any unsanctioned public gatherings if they disturb public peace or hinder traffic. In this hurry with the law-signing, the government made a lot of controversial statements. The first absurd fact is that while creating the new law Russian Duma hasn't changed another law concerning the same issues but made by one personality/citizen, and the penalty for this is much less than for citizens participating in rallies and mass meetings; the difference in amounts is huge (200 times!). By words of one Russian internet source if you want to make a penalty less, instead of damaging one particular subject during the mass meeting or rally you should damage many subjects around to consider these damages “sizable” and the law article will be another (previous one – “intentional damage or destroying of assets”); your penalty will be 10 times less. Or if you have watched that there is a crush during the rally and someone suffered, better for you to kick someone near because it will be another article of the Law - “intentional damage of health” – and penalty will be 7,5 times less than in the first case scenario.

Another absurd is about amount of people gathering together: the legal definition is vague at best: every “organization of a mass simultaneous stay or of a movement of citizens in public places that is which is not public event” needs to be notified. As there is no specific description about these “organizations,” it can be interpreted differently by police for example. So, every occasion with big amount of people at one time (wedding, playing football in the park, excursion of the group) can be described as an act of violation.

For example, in Saint-Petersburg just after new law took effect, there was a “Pillow battle,” a flash mob activity which had been taking place for several years in this city. In June 2012, 10 people were arrested for violation of the rules of mass meetings providing. In another city – Murmansk, a traditional cycle race has been abolished because they did not get the approval. I hope that laws will be created to keep the good direction for country development and will not be so controversial and absurd.


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