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Putin Endorses Law Establishing Jail Time For Luring Minors Into Protests

A Russian police officer detains a teenager during a rally protesting increases in the retirement age in St. Petersburg in September.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law establishing punishment for people deemed by courts to have involved minors in unauthorized protests, rallies, and demonstrations.

The bill signed into law by Putin on December 28 says that organizers of unsanctioned public gatherings in which people under 18 participate will face up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to 50,000 rubles ($720).

Officials will face fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($1,440) for the same offense, and organizations up to 500,000 rubles ($7,200).

Thousands of teenagers have taken part in antigovernment protests across Russia in the past few years, including demonstrations organized by opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny.

In February, Putin called on the Interior Ministry to "vigorously put an end" to the activities of groups that try to engage 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.

The bill was submitted to parliament in May, after police in Russian cities detained more than 1,600 people, some of them teenagers, on the eve of rallies organized by Navalny to protest Putin's May 7 inauguration to his fourth term.

Putin has been president or prime minister since August 1999, before Russians now 18 and under were born.

Critics say he has maintained power by sidelining opponents and quashing dissent.

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