Basking in his re-election glow, Vladimir Putin yesterday backed a move to jack up the fine for illegal protesting—to a hefty $9,500, reports the New York Times. Despite furious opposition, the measure could become law as early as next week. "We must protect people from extreme radical manifestations," said Putin, apparently desperate to prevent more demonstrations like those last December against some very dodgy election results. The law could have been a lot worse, though, as an earlier version called for fines as high as $47,000.
Most likely Putin has good reason to worry, or so says an influential new think-tank report, as growing discontent with his rule could cause a major political crisis before the end of his six-year term, writes the Wall Street Journal. Hardcore support for Putin has dropped dramatically over the past two years and is now below 50%, according to the Center for Strategic Studies. And while most of Russia outside of Moscow is less concerned with democracy, even there economic struggles have soured many on the Putin government, as well as increased interest in alternatives. "The erosion of confidence can't be stopped," said the center's director.