An opposition parliamentarian announced on Thursday plans to derail a lower house debate on a bill which massively increases the size of fines for unapproved rallies.
“When the opposition does not have enough seats to block the passage of a bill, it begins to delay it,” said Dmitry Gudkov, a A Just Russia party lawmaker and prominent figure in unprecedented protests against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.
Lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party passed the draft bill in its first reading by a majority of 236 to 207 in the State Duma on Tuesday. Six people, including Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal opposition party Yabloko, were detained at a protest in Moscow ahead of the hearing.
The bill proposes to hike maximum fines for participation in illegal protests from the current 5,000 rubles ($160) to 900,000 rubles ($29,000), and could become law early in June, ahead of another scheduled anti-Putin protest in Moscow.
In a posting on his LiveJournal blog on Thursday, Gudkov said A Just Russia would hold up the June readings by tabling “a thousand amendments” to the bill.
According to Duma procedure, each amendment is to be discussed for up to three minutes.
“What can United Russia do in response? [It can] either pass the bill following a week of tiresome debates or seriously violate Duma regulations and the consitutional rights of lawmakers by discarding the amendments,” Gudkov wrote.
“If the former happens, we will create a huge uproar, and millions of Russians will learn about the repressive legislation. If the latter, lawmakers will have the opportunity to appeal to the Constitutional Court.”
Gudkov said the Communist Party may back the plan.
Kremlin human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov said on Wednesday he planned to ask Putin to veto the controversial bill.
Vastly increased fines for illegal protests were proposed by United Russia lawmakers in the wake of clashes between police and demonstrators at a downtown Moscow rally on the eve of Putin’s May 7 inauguration as president for a third term.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reportedly told opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov earlier this month that protesters who injured riot police deserve to have their “livers smeared on the sidewalk.”
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is set to take over the leadership of United Russia from Putin later this month, also criticized the proposed hike in fines last week, saying: “We need to change ourselves and not just make harsher punishments.”
And last Friday, the Constitutional Court ruled that organizers of protests should not be fined automatically when the attendance of rallies exceeds set limits, as is currently the case, unless this creates a genuine threat.