Russia's boomerang president – he keeps coming back – says he's all for a bill just passed by lawmakers that would impose huge fines on citizens for organising or even participating in unauthorised protests.
The measure is expected to get final approval from a parliament dominated by Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. At the moment, Russians exercising their right to free assembly without official approval are threatened with a fine of 5,000 rubles ($160). If the bill passes the next vote, that could shoot up to an eye-watering 1m rubles ($32,250): nearly twice Russia's annual per capita GDP.
Democracy is so darn inconvenient
The lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Alexander Sidyakin, said the law was needed because protests cause damage to the city, restrict residents' freedom of movement and impede people's leisure activities.
Speaking at a meeting with United Russia party members, Putin gave his backing to the measure, saying, “We must shield our people from radical actions… The society and the government have a right to protect themselves from this.”
Putin is, of course, quite unhappy with the tens of thousands of his fellow citizens who so rudely took to the streets to call attention to the corruption and vote-rigging that helped put him back in the presidency for an unprecedented third term. And since much of the active opposition comes from the new urban middle class of professionals and creatives, Putin may figure a hefty fine will hit them where it hurts most: the wallet.
Take action: Three women belonging to the punk-rock band Pussy Riot (whose protests in Moscow earlier this year caused quite the sensation) are facing up to seven years in prison for their provocative political statement. Support the legal defence of these artist/activists.