Russian lawmakers have accelerated the adoption of legislation that would equate a "motor rally" with a public assembly. On Tuesday, December 1, the Duma Committee for Public Associations is expected to approve the draft document, sending the legislation to the Duma floor for a vote on the law's "first reading," according to the newspaper Vedomosti.
The draft law equates public assemblies with “the expression of public sentiments… while in transit using vehicles, posters, banners, and other forms of visual propaganda.” Moreover, the legislation also applies to tent sites (that is, "tent cities") and pickets.
Consequently, organizing an unsanctioned motor rally could result in a maximum penalty of 300,000 rubles ($4,500).
“Such speed for the adoption of a law is uncharacteristic for the Russian Duma. This demonstrates the urgency of these amendments for the authorities. Amendments to the law on public gatherings were developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Duma in late September.”
The drive to equate motor rallies with public assemblies began in March 2015, after the Ministry of Internal Affairs signaled its concerns about existing legal uncertainties in this area.
The fast-tracking of the law is taking place against the backdrop of growing protests by truck drivers in several Russian regions. The drivers of heavy goods vehicles are dissatisfied with the introduction of a highway payment system for trucks called "Platon" (or "Plato"). A representative from a professional truckers union, Valery Voitko, announced a truck-driver protest in Moscow in early December.
On December 1, Duma deputies from the Communist Party failed to win approval for appealing directly to Vladimir Putin to intervene on the Platon issue on behalf of working-class truckers. The resolution fell short by 21 votes.