[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] on Friday signed [press release, in Russian] into law a controversial bill which greatly increases penalties for protesters who violate demonstration regulations. It was passed by both houses [JURIST report] of the Russian Parliament earlier this week. The new law raises the maximum fines [JURIST report] for participating in an unsanctioned rally from 2,000 rubles (USD $60) to 300,000 rubles ($9,000) meaning a 150-fold increase. For public officials, the fine is 600,000 rubles ($18,000). The Kremlin party, or United Russia [party website, in Russian], which currently has the majority in the lower house, proposed the law in advance of a planned opposition protest on June 12. The President's human rights council on Thursday advised him to veto the bill [AFP report], which it concluded was a violation of the Russian Constitution.
The controversial bill received preliminary approval [JURIST report] from the State Duma in May by a vote of 236-207 on the first reading. Putin has supported the new bill throughout the legislative process. Russia has been criticized for violating citizens' right to free expression. Earlier this month prominent Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekeyev, who was arrested in April, became the first to be convicted under a St. Petersburg city ordinance [JURIST report] that prohibits the spreading "homosexual propaganda" to minors.