Rallies have no place here - Newspaper Kommersant No. 219 (7420) dated 11/25/2022

The State Duma on Thursday adopted in the third, final reading a law on "improving the regulation" of the status of a foreign agent. The Communists once again criticized one of his norms, which has no direct relation to the activities of foreign agents, on the expansion of the list of places where rallies cannot be held. Other opposition factions either supported the initiative or abstained from voting. In United Russia, in response to the claims, they explained that it could be unsafe at rallies, because “very radical things are said there.”

The document approved on November 24, recall, is a "satellite" of the basic law on control over the activities of foreign agents, adopted by the Duma at the end of June. It was introduced by senators and deputies (from all factions except the Communist Party) from the commissions of both houses of parliament to investigate foreign interference in Russia's internal affairs. The amendments, in particular, propose to ban foreign agents from organizing rallies, participating in educational activities and public procurement, being members of election commissions, donating money to parties, etc. New bans for foreign agents were added to the second reading: they will not be able to serve in law enforcement agencies as well as in officer positions in the armed forces.

In addition, the authors of the project proposed to significantly expand the list of places where mass events cannot be held, not only for foreign agents, but also for any Russians.

For example, it included railway stations, airports, marinas, educational and medical organizations, buildings of social protection authorities, children's and sports grounds, territories of public authorities, religious buildings and structures, as well as "other places" if the ban is "conditioned" by historical , cultural or "other objective features of the subject of the Russian Federation". By the second reading, the deputies clarified that these restrictions do not apply to public worship.

It was the amendment on rallies that again, as in the first and second readings of the bill, provoked criticism from the deputies from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Communist Yuri Sinelshchikov said that this initiative does not fit into the framework of Art. 55 of the Constitution, according to which human rights and freedoms can be limited only in order to ensure the security of the state. This constitutional norm, the deputy stressed, does not mention "legality" and "law and order", and precisely for these purposes, according to the draft, the regions are obliged to determine the places where rallies are prohibited.

Oleg Nilov of A Just Russia - For Truth (SRZP) called the bill a "legislative vinaigrette", since the amendments on rallies have nothing to do with the status of a foreign agent. “We are adopting a law that will be in force for all the remaining times, according to which our parties will not be able to carry out any activity at all,” Mr. Nilov was indignant.

Defenders of the document from the "United Russia" in response assured that "not a single millimeter" they deviate from the Constitution.

“The priority in the Constitution is to ensure the safety of citizens ... And any rally is a place where at any moment the situation can get out of control: they freely express themselves there, they say very radical things, in fact,” United Russia Adalbi Shkhagoshev explained . “Holding mass events near critical infrastructure is a serious temptation for provocations,” added Vasily Piskarev, head of the Duma’s security committee.

A day earlier, when the bill was discussed in the second reading, United Russia Andrey Alshevsky also responded to claims about the extension of new rules not only to foreign agents. He explained the logic of the authors as follows: if “someone else” organizes rallies near important facilities, then foreign agents will also be able to be present there and create a security threat.

Before the final vote, Yuri Sinelshchikov turned to his colleagues in the Duma opposition with a request to sign the appeal of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation to the Constitutional Court according to the “rally” norm (for this, 90 signatures of deputies must be collected).

However, only the Communists voted against the bill in the end. SRZP and New People abstained from voting, while the Liberal Democratic Party supported the document together with United Russia.

Maria Makutina

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