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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Rethinks Public Assembly Rules

Mayor Yury Luzhkov has withdrawn a bill that would allow the city to ban downtown rallies deemed a threat to historical buildings, officials said Thursday.

Luzhkov's representative in the City Duma, Anatoly Petrov, pulled the bill after several opposition deputies objected to a requirement that the organizers of all gatherings receive permission from the city.

"We pointed out that the amendments would effectively require even the organizers of parent-teacher meetings at schools to apply for a permit," said Yabloko deputy Yevgeny Bunimovich.

At Wednesday's City Duma session, Bunimovich proposed that the bill be included as a separate chapter, titled "On the Funeral of Democracy," in a bill on funeral services that was next on Wednesday's agenda.

In its present form, the bill -- more accurately, a raft of amendments to the current law on public gatherings -- would limit the number of participants in any gathering to two per square meter. It requires permission from the mayor for rallies of more than 5,000.

Led by the majority United Russia faction, the City Duma approved each of the amendments in a second reading Thursday and was set to vote on the bill as a whole when Petrov withdrew the legislation.

Realizing the "legal illiteracy" of the bill's authors, City Hall pulled it for revision and will introduce the amendments within one month, Bunimovich said.

The Yabloko deputy said the blanket permit requirement would likely be removed from the legislation, but restrictions on the number of participants per square meter and on rallies near historical buildings were likely to remain.

"The Mayor's Office clearly wants the power to ban rallies and these amendments serve this purpose," Bunimovich said.

In the past, City Hall has cited a variety of concerns when banning rallies by opposition political parties and ultranationalist groups. Most often, the city has maintained that the organizers of large gatherings would be unable to ensure the safety of participants, or that the event would block access to roads and services.

Petrov confirmed Thursday that City Hall would streamline the bill, including the rules on which events require a permit, Interfax reported.

"This is necessary so that different organizations will not ask why one group has been allowed to have an event with 1,000 participants on Pushkin Square, for example, while others have been refused permission to hold an event for 1,500," he said.