Politicians from two political parties in Russia on Friday asked the country's Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] to consider the constitutionality of a new law that greatly increases penalties for protesters who violate demonstration regulations. The new law raised the maximum fines for participating in an unsanctioned rally from 2,000 rubles (USD $60) to 300,000 rubles ($9,000)—a 150-fold increase. In their appeal, more than 100 lawmakers from the parties A Just Russia and the Communist Party [party websites] alleged that the law is designed to limit Russian citizens' freedom of assembly [RFE/RL report], in violation of the Russian constitution [text]. The Kremlin party, or United Russia [party website, in Russian], which currently has the majority in the State Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of the Russian parliament, proposed the law in advance of a planned opposition protest that took place on June 12. President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] signed the bill into law [JURIST report] on June 8 despite a recommendation [AFP report] from his human rights council that he veto the legislation.
Russia has been criticized recently for controversial legislation. Three UN experts on Thursday urged the State Duma [JURIST report] not to adopt a controversial bill that will regulate the activities of non-commercial organizations (NCOs) that engage in political activity and receive foreign funding. Earlier this week the Duma approved [JURIST report] the third reading of a controversial Internet regulation bill. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia had shut down its site [JURIST report] on Tuesday in a one-day protest of the legislation, which it said in an article "may become the basis for real censorship on the internet." In May prominent Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekeyev became the first to be convicted [JURIST report] under a St. Petersburg city ordinance that prohibits the spreading "homosexual propaganda" to minors. People who oppose the new law, which was introduced in November and signed into law [JURIST reports] in April, claim it will prevent gay rights groups from being able to assemble in public.