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Russia: 20 arrested as parliament debates controversial rally bill

Swift crackdown on protest as Russian lawmakers move to increase fines on such gatherings.

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Russian riot police detain an oppostion activist in central Moscow on May 31, 2012. (ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 20 protesters were detailed outside the Russian parliament today as lawmakers debated a new law that would slap heavy fines on those accused of violating protest guidelines, reported Reuters.

More from GlobalPost: Russian police detain dozens at anti-Putin rallies

The new law, proposed by the ruling United Russia party dominating parliament, would boost penalties to 1 million roubles ($30,000) for protest organizers and 300,000 roubles ($9,000) for demonstrators, said Reuters. Protesters are currently fined some 2,000 roubles (under $30), according to Russia Today.

The move follows fresh rallies against Russian President Vladimir Putin last week as well as opposition calls for a massive anti-government protest on June 12.

Opposition lawmakers today put forth some 350 amendments in an effort to delay the legislation, with opposition leader Sergei Mitrokhin describing it as a "monstrous bill which will essentially ban people from protesting," according to Reuters. Mitrokhin was later among those arrested.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Monday condemning the bill, saying it violates the 31st article of Russian constitution, which guarantees the right to free assembly.

With protest activity in Russia on the rise in recent months, opposition parliamentarian and Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov told Reuters that the legislation underscores the Russian leadership's "fear of the people."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120604/russia-20-arrested-parliament-debates-controversial-rally