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Kremlin Rights Council Says Protest Bill Unconstitutional

A Russian human rights panel has called unconstitutional a new bill imposing stiff fines on people participating in unsanctioned protests.

The Kremlin's Human Rights Council said in a statement the bill violates an article in the constitution guaranteeing freedom of assembly.

It also said the proposed fines of up to $9,000 were "disproportionate" to what most citizens earn.

The bill, approved this week by both chambers of the Russian parliament, has yet to be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

The European Union on June 7 said it was "concerned" about the bill, which critics say is intended to stifle dissent against Putin, who last month began a controversial third term as head of state.

Based on reporting by Interfax, AFP, and dpa