UK & World News
Putin Protesters Set To Face Huge Fines
Russia's parliament is to debate a Bill that could see protesters being fined around £18,000 for "breaking the law" during a demonstration - a steep increase from the current £2 penalty.
In the wake of a wave of protests against Vladimir Putin's rule, the new law could see organisers being fined up to £30,000 if the protest turns violent.
The Bill, put forward by Mr Putin's party United Russia, is almost guaranteed to be passed as it holds the parliamentary majority.
Critics say the huge fines will intimidate peaceful protesters and radicalise the opposition movement.
A report by Russian online news service Gazeta.ru quoted an unnamed parliamentary source claiming that United Russia plans to eventually go further and suggest up to five years imprisonment for "breaking the law" during protests.
Coupled with Mr Putin's snubbing of the G8 summit in Camp David, concerns are growing over the direction Russia is heading in under its 'old-new' president.
One anti-Putin protester said she was surprised Mr Putin was not going to attend the summit of world leaders and instead send Dmitry Medvedev.
"I was shocked because who is Medvedev right now? He is our prime minister - he is not president and in the text of our constitution it is written that the president is the person who will represent our country in the world," she said.
Mr Putin has said he cannot attend the summit because he is too busy forming his new government.
Music critic and opposition figure Artemy Troitsky thinks the reality is that Mr Putin is uncomfortable dealing with Western leaders.
"To preserve his fortune and his power, he decided to become the next president of Russia but there are some shortcomings and one of those is meeting international leaders who hate him and I think he'll try his best to minimise this damage," he said.
At home, Mr Putin faces small but persistent protests on the streets of Moscow.
Since his inauguration on May 7, a hardcore element of peaceful protesters have tried in vain to establish an Occupy-style permanent demonstration site.
In the most recent crackdown, hundreds were arrested for walking peacefully around the city.
The idea of introducing heavy fines for protesters has been criticised by some politicians.
Opposition MP Gennady Gudkov said the Bill contains "reasonable items", but believes now is not the time for the new law which would spur new street protests.
Anger over the perceived absence of the rule of law in Russia is one element of a general malaise that has brought people to the streets over the past five months.
Members of the opposition movement fear the concept of breaking the law during a demonstration will be exploited by police.
On May 8, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in prison for disobedience against police orders. Yet mobile phone footage shows him being purposefully compliant as police arrested him.
The crackdown has at times extended to the ridiculous. A teacher who took her pupils to the park to commemorate the Second World War as part of Victory Day celebrations was detained by police for what they said was an "unauthorised demonstration".
She was later released but told not to do such "outrageous" things in the future.