Protesters to Sweep Streets in Russia
A group of United Russia deputies led by Alexander Sidyakin, deputy chairman of the Duma Committee for Housing and Utilities, yesterday submitted draft amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses. They propose raising fines for violating the rules governing the holding of street activities to 10,000-100,000 rubles ($336-$3,360) for organizers and 1,000-10,000 rubles for participants. The maximum fine is currently 2,000 rubles ($67.20).
Fines for obstructing legitimate demonstrations and for forcing people to participate in protests will be raised from 300 rubles to 10,000-100,000 rubles for private individuals and to 50,000-200,000 rubles ($6,720) for officials.
The draft law stipulates an alternative punishment in the form of 20-200 hours of community work, currently an option (60-480 hours) only for minor offenses.
A leader of the United Russia party in parliament said their initiative had been coordinated with the Kremlin.
The letter to the proposed amendments cites foreign examples, in particular Switzerland and Sweden. Sidyakin said the Russian legislation stipulates either a small fine or imprisonment but neither is an adequate punishment.
A small fine is neither sufficient compensation (during a recent public rally in Astrakhan, demonstrators broke two posts and trampled grass in the city center) nor an effective deterrent. Community work as a punishment for violators of the law on demonstrations will also deprive the opposition of their hero image.
Speaker of the Moscow City Duma Vladimir Platonov proposed amending the federal law on demonstrations in March, after it was reported that large opposition demonstrations were complicating the work of the city’s utility services and that damages were estimated in millions of rubles.
The largest proposed fine, 100,000 rubles, is comparable to punishments laid down in the Criminal Code, while the alternative punishment – up to 200 hours of community work – will erode the boundary between the codes, complained lawyer Andrei Andrusenko.
In the first half of last year, 44,944 people were sentenced to community work and 59,140 were fined. An employee of the Moscow department of the Federal Penitentiary Service said the use of such punishment in Moscow is complicated because the Justice Ministry insists that the offenders are assigned community work in their own neighborhoods, which is not always possible. He also said that correctional labor or even a prison term should be imposed on those who evade punishment.
The amendments are targeted at the leaders of unsanctioned political demonstrations but could be also used against ordinary people protesting against violations in their regions, said lawyer Konstantin Trapaidze.
Ilya Yashin, a leader of the Solidarity movement, said that demonstrators are usually detained for refusing to obey the police, which is becoming increasingly difficult to prove in court. But now the authorities will opt for big fines. Civilian activists are ready for this since they are sure they will easily collect the necessary money on the Internet, Yashin said.
Eduard Limonov laughed at the proposal: “Let them make us sweep the streets – that’ll grab the attention of the press.”
Mother’s Debt: Lawyer Files $20,000 Claim Against Nine-Year-Old
Lawyer Alexei Panikorovsky has filed a 561,000-ruble ($18,850) claim against Ivan Chaplygin, aged 9, following the death of his mother, who had allegedly borrowed that amount.
After he lost his father at the age of one, Ivan lived with his mother, Yelena Khabarova, in a two-room apartment in central Moscow. A few years ago, Khabarova rented her apartment to Panikorovsky. On January 2, 2009, 34-year-old Khabarova died from injuries she suffered in an accident.
The tenant refused to vacate the apartment, said Irina Bauman, Khabarova’s relative who took the orphaned boy in. She filed a lawsuit asking the court to terminate the rent agreement. Her claim was upheld, but the door has been kept locked. “We’ll have to break in with bailiffs once we receive an enforcement order,” she said.
Panikorovsky, in turn, filed a claim against Ivan providing receipts signed by Khabarova. The defendant claims that the receipts are for the amounts he paid as his monthly rent. In legal terms, a lawsuit against a minor is only a formality, he must be represented by his guardian.
Panikorovsky suggested taking the apartment in repayment of Khabarova’s “debt,” valuing it at $40,000. “This man is clearly trying to take over Ivan’s apartment. That is why he is not suing the boy’s stepfather, who also inherited Khabarova’s debts, but not the apartment,” Bauman said.
She filed a counter-claim against Panikorovsky to recover nearly 300,000 rubles ($10,080) for failure to pay his rent for two years since Khabarova’s death.
“He won’t get the apartment. The best he can hope for is to receive his money in installments after Ivan comes of age,” Bauman said.
“In such cases there is always a conflict between our moral judgment, which supports the child’s interests, and the law,” said Yevgeny Bunimovich, ombudsman for Children's Rights in Moscow. Most of the 2,000 complaints he received this year involved property disputes. “These cases need looking into. It often happens that one side uses the child’s rights to achieve its own ends,” he said.
“A claim against a minor is a legal possibility. The child inherits everything including his parents’ debt,” said family lawyer Yekaterina Bugayenko. “But physically, minors don’t go to court, they are represented by their guardians.”
“A child’s rights would only be violated if he himself was taken to court,” agreed Boris Altshuler, head of the Right of the Child NGO.
Ivan’s situation is rare indeed, said lawyer Vladimir Yurasov. Theoretically, the court may order his guardian to repay his debt, but this ruling is hardly enforceable.
Even if the claim is upheld, it may only be imposed on the inherited property, not on the child, Bugayenko said. The guardian’s property cannot be used to repay the orphan’s debt.
Neither can the guardian use or sell the inherited property – he can only manage it, Altshuler said.
The directorate for guardianship at the Moscow Department of Family and Youth Policy could not be reached for comment.
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