MOSCOW, December 26 – RAPSI. The Moscow City lawmakers have approved amendments to the law on rallies, allowing mass gatherings to be held at sites similar to Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner in London, RIA Novosti reported.
There will be two political discussion sites - in Moscow’s Gorky Park and Sokolniki Park.
Rallies can be held here without any prior approval from the authorities: an online application is sufficient. The platforms are to open on January 1, 2013 and will be able to host no more than 2,000 people each.
Opposition leaders disapprove of the authorities’ choice, pointing out that the parks are too far away from the city center and are unfit for mass manifestations.
Numerous opposition rallies held in 2011 prompted Moscow authorities to start actively discussing Hyde Park analogues for citizens to express their political views.
The last opposition protest rally was held on May 6, 2012, in Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow, following the election of Vladimir Putin to his third presidential term.
Although authorized, the opposition rally across Moscow led to clashes with the police. Dozens of protesters and police officers were injured. The police detained over 400 rally participants. After May 6, the opposition continued its protests in the form of "people's promenades," wherein crowds of opposition activists walked peacefully together through the city.
On June 5, the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, passed a bill increasing fines for violating rally procedures and the upper house approved it the following day.
The bill was then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
The law has increased the fines by 10 times, stipulated compulsory community service for violators and prohibited wearing of masks during protests. The maximum fine has risen to 300,000 rubles ($9,200) for individuals and 600,000 rubles ($18,400) for public officials.
The law also cracks down on unauthorized rallies by prohibiting any mass events organized under the guise of public gatherings, or so-called "people's promenades," should they cause public unrest.