Staunton, November 29 – The Udmurt and Chuvash legislatures have given preliminary approval to United Russia-backed measures severely limiting the ability of opponents of the regime to stage protests, moves that may be bellwethers of changes elsewhere now that some Russian opposition figures have said they want to organize more protests in the provinces.
Two days ago, the State Council of Udmurtia adopted on first reading which local observers said would “in fact eliminate the constitutional right of freedom of assembly in the republic” by “prohibiting meetings and demonstrations in almost all suitable places for such assemblies” (www.echo.msk.ru/blog/andrey_izhevsk/958072-echo/
Clearly, observers say, the incumbent president of the republic, now that he has decided to run for a fourth term, does not want to have to deal with any more demonstrations or anti-government auto rallies, events which have become a regular feature there during his current term in office.
The new legislation being considered makes it even more difficult for those opposed to the government in Izhevsk to make their case. For two years already, organizers of demonstrations have had to get the approval of the Udmurt transportation ministry, something they have been denied even as United Russia-backed events have been approved.
“It is symbolic,” one observer noted, “that the scandalous draft law was prepared by the State Council Commission on Nationality Policy and Public Security.” That group is headed by Envil Kasimov, who “not long ago” was the first Udmurt legislator to come out in support of the current president’s plans to run for another term.
Meanwhile, in the Chuvash Republic, the State Council has approved on second reading legislation which prohibits meetings closer than 50 meters to railway and bus stations, airports, trade centers, markets, educational and cultural facilities, as well as churches and other religious buildings (www.irekle.org/news/i453.html
In addition, the new legislation bans actions closer than 30 meters to government buildings of all levels, on roads, and closer than five meters from the entrances to apartment blocks. The exact distances have been modified during debates, but local rights activists say that these are only “cosmetic” and do not affect the impact of the law on protesters.
A Chuvash rights portal says that the initiative for this “draconian” law came from deputies who are members of the ruling United Russia Party (www.irekle.org/news/i282.html). And criticism of the law came exclusively from opponents of that party in the local parliament (www.irekle.org/news/i315.html).
Similar legislation is likely under consideration in other regions as well, given how similar these two laws are. That is undoubtedly the case because Gari Kasparov and some other opposition figures in Moscow have indicated that they believe the next stage of protests needs to involve the provinces as well (www.kasparov.ru/material.php?id=50B475BED6AC8).