Will the law be used to punish opposition demonstrators? (epa)
April 18, 2007 -- The lower house of Russia's parliament has passed legislation toughening criminal penalties for extremism.
The amendments to Russia's Criminal Code provide for up to three years' imprisonment for politically or ideologically motivated vandalism.
The legislation could allow the authorities to punish participants in opposition protests should they turn violent. The changes came days after police violently broke up opposition demonstrations in Moscow on April 14 and St. Petersburg on April 15.
The amendments also provide for stiff fines for those selling or manufacturing products with Nazi symbols. It also increases the prison sentences for desecrating graves or human bodies from three years to five years.
Russia's NGO Law
Russian environmental activists demonstrate in February 2006 against a proposed oil pipeline that they believe would have harmed Lake Baikal (TASS)
CLAMPING DOWN ON ACTIVISM. The authors of a report on Russia's controversial law on nongovernmental organizations issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom told an RFE/RL briefing in Washington that the law places "disturbing" restrictions on NGOs.