The three opposition factions in the Russian State Duma questioned the need for a bill that would steeply increase fines for illegal protest activity, but the draft legislation has the support of the ruling United Russia party, which has a slim majority in the Duma.
Although members of the opposition parties acknowledged that the current fines are low, they believe an increase could radicalize the protest movement.
The United Russia bill, which has been approved in committee, would increase the maximum fine for violations committed by protest participants to 900,000 rubles (about $30,000) from 100 rubles currently. The maximum fine for violations by protest organizers would rise to 1.5 million rubles.
“No member of our faction could afford to pay these fines,” said Deputy Duma Speaker Igor Lebedev from the Liberal Democratic Party.
Gennady Gudkov, a deputy with the A Just Russia faction, said the bill contains “reasonable items,” but that now is not the time for the new law, which would spur new street protests.
“Perhaps give some time for things to cool down and return to this issue later,” he said.
The Duma is scheduled to consider the bill in a first reading on May 18.