The second March of Millions held by opposition activists in Moscow on Tuesday remains one of the most widely discussed topics in Russia. The march and the rally were peaceful, although many had expected new clashes and violations to take place. Not a single police officer was attacked; not one activist was detained. Perhaps, this was the result of the new law on rallies imposing high fines for violations. Leading Russian political analysts discussed the topic during a special meeting in Moscow.
Maksim Grigoryev, the director of the Democratic Research Foundation, was a public observer during the campaign and had positive impressions of what he saw there, saying, “That was almost an ideal rally from the point of view of public order with all participants behaving in a proper way. We saw how people marched and how the police watched the event. I was there myself. Some protesters came up to police officers to ask them what would be the best way to organise the march and at the same time create no obstacles to anybody. It means that there’s already a culture of protesting. I liked very much the way the police worked. They treated all protesters with respect. It’s worth mentioning that the march and the rally attracted people with very different political views. I think that amendments to the law on rallies have had a positive effect on society, forcing the most aggressive protesters to change their minds”.
The new law on rallies came into force on 9 June and caused loud debates, with many fearing that higher fines would just provoke more violence. The fears were in vain. Irina Yarovaya, the chairman of the RF Gosduma Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, described the new law as an “air cushion” for society, noting, “Opposition activists have probably understood that behaving properly won’t cost them anything. Actually, the opposition itself caused the amendments to the law on rallies after its activists incited aggression during previous rallies. Then, the police suppressed the provocations. After that, the parliament analysed the European legislation on rallies and approved adequate measures in Russia to ensure more security during upcoming rallies. I want to believe that those who organise the rallies have understood the level of their responsibility”.
Most analysts agree that the new law meets European norms… it doesn’t deprive people of their right to protest, whilst the fines are quite comparable to those used in the majority of developed countries. Latest opinion polls show most Russians approve the new law on rallies. In a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation in 43 regions of Russia, 50 percent of respondents welcomed higher fines for violations during rallies. 38 percent of respondents think that higher fines would result in fewer violations during protest campaigns. More than 50 percent of Russians approve of the ban of wearing masks during rallies… if people want to express their views, they should do this openly.
15 June 2012
Voice of Russia World Service