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First Charge Filed Targeting Protests In Russia Involving Minors, NGO Says


Russian police officers confront a teenager during a rally protesting hikes in the country's retirement age in St. Petersburg on September 9.

Russian authorities have filed their first formal accusation based on new legislation under which people found to have lured minors into protests can be jailed, an advocacy group says.

The charge of "engaging minors (individuals younger than 18) in unsanctioned public gatherings" was filed in the Baltic Sea coastal city of Kaliningrad, the Apology Of Protest organization said on Telegram on February 12.

The NGO provides legal assistance to people facing pressure from the state over demonstrations.

It said that Ivan Luzin, a backer of opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny in Kaliningrad, was charged with involving two teenagers -- born in 2002 and 2003 -- in a rally on February 7.

In late December, President Vladimir Putin, 66, signed a law establishing administrative punishment for people deemed by courts to have involved minors in unauthorized protests, rallies, and demonstrations.

According to the law, organizers of unsanctioned public gatherings in which people under 18 participate face punishment including up to 15 days in jail, community service, and a fine of up to 50,000 rubles ($760).

Officials will face fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($1,520) for the same offense, and organizations up to 500,000 rubles ($7,600).

The law was endorsed after thousands of teenagers took part in antigovernment protests across Russia in the past few years, including demonstrations organized by Navalny, 42.

The charges were apparently lodged over a demonstration in downtown Kaliningrad in which Luzin and two young female protesters held posters expressing support for two jailed activists who claim they were tortured in custody.

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