MOSCOW, December 28 – RAPSI. Sites similar to Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner, London's most famous place for public debate, will be opened in Moscow in spring 2013, Alexei Mayorov, head of the Moscow City Regional Security Department, told Izvestia.
The sites were expected to start working on January 1, 2013, but their opening is postponed due to bureaucratic faults. Mayorov believes that additional time may also be required for rebuilding and equipping parks to hold mass political rallies.
On Wednesday, Moscow lawmakers approved amendments to the law on rallies, allowing mass gatherings to be held at sites similar to Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner.
There will be two political discussion sites - in Moscow’s Gorky Park and Sokolniki Park.
Rallies can be held here without any prior approval from the authorities: an online application is sufficient. The platforms were expected to start functioning on January 1, 2013 and will have a maximum capacity of 2,000 people each.
Numerous opposition rallies held in 2012 have prompted Moscow authorities to start actively discussing the creation of Hyde Park type spaces for citizens to express their political views.
The last opposition protest rally was held on May 6, 2012, in Bolotnaya Square in central Moscow, following the election of Vladimir Putin to his third presidential term.
Although authorized, the opposition rally across Moscow led to clashes with the police. Dozens of protesters and police officers were injured. The police detained over 400 rally participants. After May 6, the opposition continued its protests in the form of "people's promenades," wherein crowds of opposition activists walked peacefully together through the city.
On June 5, the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, passed a bill increasing fines for violating rally procedures and the upper house approved it the following day.
The bill was then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
The law has increased the fines by 10 times, stipulated compulsory community service for violators and prohibited wearing of masks during protests. The maximum fine has risen to 300,000 rubles ($9,200) for individuals and 600,000 rubles ($18,400) for public officials.
The law also cracks down on unauthorized rallies by prohibiting any mass events organized under the guise of public gatherings, or so-called "people's promenades," should they cause public unrest.