Meetings Law, with changes offered by Putin, expected to be adopted

The bill 'On Gatherings, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing,' which the State Duma approved on its first reading but which has elicited criticism from social organizations and the media, will be amended along the lines suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin. That prediction came Monday at a press conference here from Vyacheslav Volodin, deputy speaker of the Duma. The president's response to the bill was delivered to the Duma earlier in the day, Volodin said.

'Vladimir Putin has quickly taken account the criticism voiced by society and the media and has clarified his position,' Volodin said. 'The amendments suggested by the president resolve a great many thorny issues.' At the same time, the deputy speaker asserted that the general approach of the proposal-requiring prior notification of and permission for meetings and other demonstrations-would not be affected by the amendments.

In his response, the president suggested that meetings and other public demonstrations be banned only on or near dangerous industrial sites, on highways and railway lines, at pipelines and near the residence of the president, courts, prisons and prisoner-interrogation facilities. The right to picket government ministries and agencies should be maintained, the president said. His suggested amendments also call for shortening the time required for prior notification of intention to hold a meeting or other public demonstration.

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