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Russian Deputies Back Antiprotest Bill

Russian police detain an opposition activist at a rally protesting the bill.
Russian police detain an opposition activist at a rally protesting the bill.
The lower house of Russia's parliament has approved a controversial bill that would dramatically increase fines on protesters.
The bill was adopted after more than 10 hours of heated debate in the State Duma.
Opposition lawmakers had earlier tried to delay the passing of the bill by submitting some 400 amendments.
The bill was finally passed at the third reading by 241-147.
After the vote, A Just Russia opposition party leader Sergei Mironov called the bill absurd.

"Today, A Just Russia faction did everything it could to show the whole absurdity and harmfulness of the adopted law, which is aimed at stuffing the mouths of our people," Mironov said.

"We have shown that United Russia is doing its best to achieve the result it needs [and] is ready to neglect all procedural rules, is ready to neglect common sense and, what is most important, has absolutely no respect for its people and its voters."
The controversial bill, backed by the ruling pro-Kremlin United Russia party, calls for fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,000) and broadens the list of punishable offenses at street gatherings.
Such transgressions include material damage and hindrance to vehicles and passersby, and concealing one's face.
'Meets European Standards'

Critics accuse United Russia of curbing an ongoing protest movement against the rule of President Vladimir Putin, who was inaugurated as president for the third time on May 7.
However, Andrei Vorobyov, chairman of United Russia State Duma faction, said the bill meets all European standards.

"We appreciate freedom very much. Every person, every family, enormously appreciates freedom, but we need to clearly understand that living in democracy means not only opportunities, not only rights, but also obligations to bear responsibility for our actions," Vorobyov said.

"That's why we adopted today a bill which meets all European norms, which follows the logic of the democratic character of our reforms."
Russian police arrested some 20 activists who were picketing the State Duma building in connection with the debate.
The leader of the opposition Yabloko party, Sergei Mitrokhin, was reportedly among those detained in front of parliament.
The text is now expected to be adopted by the upper house this week. It will then require Putin's signature.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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