Ukraine’s Parliament Passes Sweeping Anti-Protest Law

Critics of the law condemned its passing by show of hands, not electronic voting system

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Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Anti-government protesters congregate on Independence Square, known as the Euromaidan, on Dec. 11, 2013, in Kiev.

Ukrainian lawmakers approved on Thursday the criminalization of protest activities that defined a recent wave of mass anti-government demonstrations, angering opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The new law makes the unauthorized setup of stages, amplifiers or tents in public punishable by a fine—up to $640—or a detention for up to 15 days, according to Reuters. In addition, individuals or organizations who offer facilities or equipment for unsanctioned protests can be fined up to $1,275 or held for up to 10 days. Another measure, reported by the Financial Times, imposes a 10-year jail term for those who blockade government buildings.

A total of 235 of 450 lawmakers voted for the law, but critics condemned how a rushed show of hands was used to approve it, instead of the usual electronic voting system. “I am concerned about the way some laws were voted in Parliament today. Norms should be adopted through proper procedures, otherwise the credibility of democratic institutions and of the legal system is at stake,” Jan Tombinski, the European Union’s ambassador to Ukraine, said in a statement.

The approval comes one day after a Ukrainian court published a ban—decided on Jan. 6—on mass protests between Jan. 8 and March 8 in central Kiev, where weeks of mass demonstrations paralyzed the capital. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians first amassed there in November to oppose Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a trade deal with the E.U. He instead chose to form closer ties with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.