Pro-Putin Party Eyes New Crackdown After Inauguration Protests

(Bloomberg) -- The pro-Kremlin United Russia party is proposing new laws to crack down on dissent after nationwide protests took place against Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a record fourth term as president.

A draft law to punish the guardians of minors involved in unsanctioned protests has been submitted to the lower house of parliament, state-run RIA Novosti news service reported Thursday. Other lawmakers from the party, which holds the majority in parliament, want to amend existing legislation for monitoring non-government organizations so that they can be labeled “undesirable” if they’re shown to be meddling in Russia’s elections, RIA reported.

The proposals emerged after photographs of riot police manhandling schoolchildren came to symbolize anti-Putin protests held across Russia on May 5, two days before the inauguration. About 1,600 people were detained in total at the unsanctioned rallies organized by opposition leader Alexey Navalny. With last month’s ousting of neighboring Armenia’s longtime ruler showing the potential threat posed by street protests, Russian officials are determined to maintain a hard line against dissent.

Russia’s parliament also passed a series of sweeping measures against protests following Putin’s re-election in 2012, after tens of thousands had joined the biggest anti-Kremlin demonstrations of his time in office.

Putin, 65, won a record 77 percent of the vote in March’s election, while critics complained of ballot-stuffing and an absence of genuine competition. He reappointed his long-serving Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev this week and made few cabinet changes, signalling little appetite for any policy shifts amid the worst standoff with the West in decades.

Guardians of minors that attend unsanctioned protests or meetings would face as many as 15 days in jail, 100 hours of community service or a fine of as much as 50,000 rubles ($800), RIA reported, citing the draft law.

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