Putin Lends Support to Controversial Anti-Protest Legislation
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, has officially lent his support to a controversial piece of legislation that would increase the fines for unsanctioned protests by 200 percent.
Putin has stated that the measure is aimed at strengthening democracy in the former Soviet Republic by protecting citizens from “radical acts.”
But critics have charged that the measure is clearly an attempt to discourage protests against the Putin regime, and to stifle free speech. According to Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of a liberal, Russian opposition party: “A direct signal is being made by those in power: sit down and keep quiet!”
Valentin Romanav, a politician and member of the Communist party, described the law as “a pre-emptive move preceding a rise in social protests across the country.”
Putin is no stranger to protests. As many as 20,000 people poured into the streets upon hearing the news of his reelection in March of this year. They were protesting what they perceive to be a dictatorial grip that Putin has had on Russia since 1999, as well as numerous alleged human rights violations and widespread election fraud.
Additionally, Putin’s regime has a history of forcibly silencing outspoken critics of the government. As of January, 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists estimated that roughly 50 reporters had been killed for openly opposing Putin’s policies.
Compounding his totalitarian image, on the eve of his reelection Putin ordered the arrest of an all-girl Russian punk band known for engaging in anti-Putin guerrilla demonstrations, including an impromptu concert in Red Square. Putin’s spokesman described the band’s protests as “disgusting.” The members of the band, all of whom are in their 20′s, face up to 7 years in prison for protesting against Putin’s government.
Putin’s support for the anti-protest legislation comes on the heels of his decision to rehire some of the most unpopular and generally distrusted ministers in recent Russian memory, despite public outcry condemning the course of action.