ST PETERSBURG, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on Friday a bill that will dramatically increase fines for people who take part in protests that violate public order rules, just days ahead of the next planned rally against his 12-year rule.
Putin told a meeting of top judges in his native St. Petersburg that he decided to sign the bill despite objections from his own human rights adviser, Mikhail Fedotov, who asked the president to veto it.
Participants in protests where public order is violated could now face fines of 300,000 roubles ($9,100) - more than the average annual salary and up from 1,000 roubles. The organizers of such rallies could be fined up to 1 million roubles.
Putin, who has largely ignored a wave of protests that weakened his grip before his return to the presidency, said the law would prevent demonstrations from turning into the sort mass unrest seen in Europe, with cars being burnt and stores looted.