- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Russia’s repressive anti-protest laws have created a quagmire for law enforcement, according to a top official. First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy told reporters Tuesday that the government’s growing reluctance toward political rallies has led to a surge in unsanctioned gatherings where police can’t guarantee public safety.

Mr. Gorovoy said authorities have been less inclined as of late to sign off on mass assemblies, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. Protesters have been holding events even after having their plans rejected, however, in turn creating a growing number of large gatherings that warrant police intervention, he said.

“We’re obligated to take (sometimes quite tough) measures to stop these assemblies, and this plays right into the hands of many quasi-politicians. It would make our work much easier, if these demonstrations were permitted, and they didn’t violate Russia’s Constitution,” he said, according to an English translation.

In 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that increased fines for individuals who participate in protests where public order is disturbed. Two years later, he authorized a similar measure that allows repeat offenders who are found guilty of “holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” multiple times during a six-month period to face penalties ranging from hefty fines and prison time to forced labor.

Mikhail Pashkina, a chairman with a police union in Moscow, told the Vedomosti newspaper on Tuesday that the law enforcement resources are drained by unsanctioned rallies since special forces are often deployed to break-up events that might otherwise be dealt with differently.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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