Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, signalled his support yesterday for a controversial bill that would increase fines 200-fold for those taking part in unsanctioned protests.
The bill received preliminary approval by the Kremlin-controlled lower house on Tuesday.
Opposition lawmakers have warned that the bill will only fuel broad outrage and destabilise Russia by depriving the public of a legal way to voice grievances.
Mr Putin defended the bill yesterday, describing it as "strengthening democracy". "We must shield our people from radical actions," he said in remarks from a meeting with United Russia. "The society and the government have a right to protect themselves from this."