Putin bids to squeeze opposition with tough laws

In just over two months since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin, Russia's parliament has rushed through a flurry of legislation giving him new powers to crack down on the opposition movement.

"This is Vladimir Putin's post-electoral package of repressive bills aimed at harshly clamping down on internal politics in the country," said human rights lawyer and blogger Pavel Chikov.

The amendments "will undoubtedly be used actively against the awakening civil society in Russia," he told AFP.

In the last month, the parliament has passed laws massively raising fines for misdemeanours at protests and allowing the government to block access to blacklisted Internet sites.

On its last pre-holiday session on Friday, the lower house voted through a bill recriminalising slander and libel with massive fines, and another ordering NGOs with international funding to call themselves "foreign agents."

The bills now need to be passed by the Federation Council upper house and then signed into law by President Putin.

The day was swiftly named Black Friday by opponents.

The authorities insist that the measures reflect international norms and that civil society even stands to benefit.

"These are laws that are in the interests of civil society. They are not against anyone. They are for protecting the safety of civil society," said the head of the lower house's security and anti-corruption committee, Irina Yarovaya.

Yet critics say the laws are clearly aimed at dampening opposition to Putin.

"Now it is possible to create a criminal case against any active person. Not necessarily put them in jail, but stub out their desire to take part in protests," said political analyst and editor of Russky Zhurnal website, Alexander Morozov.

A key question is how the powers will be used against protest leaders, particularly charismatic lawyer, blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.

Rallying slogans coined by Navalny, "Putin is a thief" and "Party of Swindlers and Thieves " to describe the ruling party, would fall under the new slander law, hinted the lower house's deputy speaker, Sergei Zheleznyak.

"When people try to use slander to prove crimes by the authorities, accusing whole large groups of people, then they are criminals! This is unacceptable," he said in televised comments.

"We know perfectly well whom this law is against: against someone ... who calls a United Russia deputy a swindler and thief," said opposition-backing deputy Ilya Ponomarev of A Just Russia party in parliament on Friday.

Navalny has had his apartment searched as part of a criminal probe into violence at a May 6 protest that has seen 14 arrested and looks likely to be a setpiece to haul in the opposition.

The protest leader has admitted he would struggle to defend himself against a slander charge.

"Formally, legally, I have no proof that someone is a swindler. There hasn't been any court verdict. But there never will be any court verdict if the person is a minister and he is protected by our state," Navalny told NTV.

"They will continue intimidating Navalny until he ceases any public activity, on the street or on the Internet," predicted Morozov.

Yet analysts differed on how effective the bills would be at curbing the wave of public protest.

Morozov said he believed that the mass opposition movement would be frozen with only radicals such as Sergei Udaltsov of the Left Front movement carrying on protests.

"Society will once more divide up into those who are ready to carry on an uncompromising battle, like Udaltsov, and those who prefer to stay silent," he said.

"We can expect cold days ahead, lengthy frosts," he said, invoking Cold War rhetoric.

For Putin, the strategy carries no risk, since he can rally support from a group of "aggressive conformists" who work for the state or rely on government contracts and grew richer during the Putin years, Morozov argued.

But Yury Korgunyuk of the Indem think tank disagreed, saying he thought Putin's strategy would not be effective long-term.

"Putin is thinking about today, not tomorrow. Now they will try charging someone under the new laws, but the protest will only keep on swelling," he told AFP.

"Putin is doing all he can to bring on the frosts, but the ground is too heated, it will not freeze."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Thai, Philippine indexes weak after trade data

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose in line with the rest of Asia on Tuesday but the Thai index pared early gains after weak trade data in April, while the Philippine benchmark ... …

  • Is your home on top of a faultline?
    Is your home on top of a faultline?

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanoly and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recently issued an updated and high-resolution "atlas" of the East Valley Fault and West Valley Fault, two major faultlines that run through sections of Metro Manila. Metro Manila may be due for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake within this lifetime, say experts from the institute, among them PHIVOLCS director Dr. Renato Solidum, Jr. According to records, the last major earthquake caused by the West Valley Fault took place 357 years …

  • Filipina maid photographs "modern slavery" in Hong Kong

    By Emma Batha LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Filipina maid in Hong Kong has published stark photographs of burned and beaten domestic workers to highlight the "modern slavery" she says has long been the city's shameful secret. "Hong Kong is a very modern, successful city but people treat their helpers like slaves," said Xyza Cruz Bacani, whose black and white portraits won her a scholarship from the Magnum Foundation to start studying at New York University this month. It's common …

  • Want to buy a brand new car?
    Want to buy a brand new car?

    Tired of fixing your old car? Maybe, this is the best time for you to invest a brand new car. BPI Family Savings Bank, the country’s leading consumer bank, is extending its newest campaign “Bagong Kotse, 1-Month Libre” promo until June 30, 2015 which allows potential car buyers to avail of a car loan term up […] The post Want to buy a brand new car? appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’
    ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’

    The daughter of one of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. owners has assured the government that the businessmen are still in the Philippines, contrary to some reports that they have fled the country. Barbara Ang, daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, said her father and his business partners have no plans of leaving the country despite the razing of the Valenzuela slipper factory, which killed 72 workers on May 13. Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian also stood by his promise to punish any local …

  • Lawmakers to review building code provisions
    Lawmakers to review building code provisions

    Lawmakers are set to review provisions of the National Building Code and Republic Act 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, to strengthen contingencies and policies to prepare the country for possible major earthquakes. The move came following proposals from Reps. Winston Castelo of Quezon City and Lito Atienza of the Buhay party-list to review the two laws and other regulations during a hearing of the House committee on Metro Manila development on the …

  • Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms
    Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms

    The Philippines’ attaining first world status may soon be imminent if significant reforms initiated by the current administration would be consistently pursued, President Aquino suggested yesterday. “Kung madidiligan ang ating mga pinunla, at makaka-graduate ang mga pinag-aaral natin upang makapasok sa maaayos na trabaho, baka po tuluyan nang nasa first world status tayo sa panahong iyon (If we water the seeds sown and those we sent to school will find better jobs, then time will come that …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options