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Police Detain Activists As Antiprotest Bill Debated


Russian police detain an opposition activist at a rally protesting a bill, initiated in the State Duma, to authorize bigger fines for a broader range of violations at demonstrations.
MOSCOW -- The lower house of the Russian parliament is debating in its second reading a bill that would dramatically increase fines on protesters as police outside the Duma detained opponents of the draft.*

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 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.

Critics say the new bill aims at curbing an ongoing protest movement against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.

*CORRECTED: Corrected to make clear that the bill has not yet passed its second reading.

Based on reporting by Interfax and RFE/RL's Russian Service