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Russia's Federation Council Approves Tougher Antiprotest Bill

Opposition activists rallied in central Moscow on June 5 against the draft law to steeply increase fines for illegal protest activities, which was passed the same day by the lower house and a day later by Russia's upper house.
The upper house of Russia's parliament has approved a bill that dramatically increases potential fines for people found guilty of participating in unsanctioned rallies, sending it on to President Vladimir Putin for his signature.

The June 6 vote in the Federation Council came just hours after the lower house approved the bill following hours of debate and protests by opposition lawmakers. Protesters outside the parliament were arrested in the hours leading up to the vote.

The beefed-up restrictions come with opposition to the third-term president mounting, and street protests and other forms of dissent continuing following two heavily criticized elections.

Putin is expected to sign the bill into law.

The measure sharply raises -- to between 10,000 and 900,000 rubles ($300-$27,000) -- the potential fine for people found guilty of participating in unsanctioned protests.

The current fine is 100 to 300 rubles.

Government officials found guilty could face fines of up to 1.5 million rubles.

Critics say the fines could threaten the survival of the public protest movement against Putin's rule.

Faced with harsh police treatment and detention, critics of "Putinism" have turned to alternative forms of protest since December's national parliamentary elections and the presidential election in March.

Based on reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS