Putin signs tough anti-protest law

A new harsh anti-protest law is signed in Russia to deter demonstrations.

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Picture: AFP

ST PETERSBURG - Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on Friday a bill that will dramatically increase fines for people who take part in protests that violate public order, just days ahead of the next planned rally against his 12-year rule.

Putin told a meeting of the country's top judges in his native St. Petersburg that he decided to sign the bill despite objections from his own human rights adviser Mikhail Fedotov who asked the president to veto it.

Participants in protests where public order is violated could now face fines of 300,000 roubles ($9,100) - more than the average annual salary - and the organisers of such rallies could be fined up to 1 million roubles.

The fine for participants used to be 1,000 roubles.

Opposition leaders said the Kremlin rushed the law through so that it could be in place before an opposition demonstration planned for next Tuesday.

Putin's opponents say the bill could radicalise the opposition movement.

Putin said he compared the draft with legislation in a number of European Union countries, including Britain, Germany, France and Spain, before signing it.

"There is nothing in our law which would have been more tough than similar legislation in the countries I named," he said.