KALININGRAD, Russia -- An 18-year-old Russian activist has become the first person punished under a new law that prohibits adults from encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized protests.
In a ruling late on March 25, a court in the Baltic port city of Kaliningrad ruled that Ivan Luzin violated the law by involving two 16-year-old girls in an unsanctioned demonstration and fined him 30,000 rubles ($465).
Under the law signed by President Vladimir Putin in December, offenders can be punished by jail terms of up to 15 days, community service, and fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($775).
Civil-society activists say the law is part of a persistent effort by Putin's government to stifle dissent and restrict street protests.
It was proposed and passed amid apparent Kremlin concern over the participation of teenagers in several protest in recent years, including demonstrations organized by opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.
In February 2018, Putin called on the Interior Ministry to "vigorously put an end" to the activities of groups he said encourage teenagers to participate in unsanctioned protests.
State media have sometimes devoted particular attention to the participation of minors, and the exact numbers are unclear.
Some critics say the government has overstated the role of children in such protests, and Kremlin opponents fear the legislation could be used to discredit opponents by suggesting they are roping children in and putting them at risk
Luzin is a supporter of Navalny and a member of the unregistered Libertarian Party.
He was charged after a demonstration in downtown Kaliningrad in which he and two girls held posters expressing support for a pair of jailed activists who claim they were tortured in custody.