Within weeks of Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency, his party is following up on threats to crack down on anti-government protesters. Both houses of Russia's parliament have backed vastly increased fines against "unauthorized" demonstrations; Putin is expected to sign the measure into law within days. The law sets a maximum penalty of $9,300 or 200 hours of community service for individuals involved in such protests; the fine had been just $60. Event organizers, meanwhile, could pay $30,000, according to the Voice of America.
Some 38% of Russians oppose the bill, whose fines are higher than the country's average income; two-thirds say it's time for talks between Putin and the opposition, notes the Moscow Times. The move comes ahead of a giant rally set for Tuesday, der Spiegel reports. The measure was introduced following protests against Putin's potential 12 years in office. Meanwhile, protests are continuing, with 10 detained yesterday—and the bill could backfire, prompting more Russians to take to the streets. But the only reason Putin wouldn't sign the bill is if it opposes European free speech rules, a rep says. (Read more rally stories.)