Source AP ©

Are public gatherings prohibited in Moscow?

Tough new restrictions on public gatherings and rallies in the capital in a move likely to dismay anti-government campaigners are approved by the council.

The City Duma regulations require that gatherings have no more than two people per square meter (10 sq. feet) and rallies and meetings held inside will have to have seating for a precise number, approved by city officials.

Rally organizers will also be required to submit requests to hold public rallies no more than 15 days and no less than 10 days before the date of a gathering.

"This law restricts the rights of citizens to conduct mass demonstrations," Sergei Mitrokhin, of the liberal Yabloko party, told Ekho Moskvy radio. "Now there are even more causes for prohibit (rallies)."

A number of organizations - anti-government or others - have sought to stage demonstrations in Moscow this spring, only to be rebuffed by city authorities.

Gay rights activists have appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn city officials' ban on holding a gay pride march in May.

On Wednesday, Moscow's Tverskoi District Court upheld a ban on efforts by the so-called March of Dissenters - a loose group of government opponents - who were seeking to stage a rally on April 16. March organizers, which include former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, have met harsh police crackdowns at three previous efforts in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

Opposition groups have accused the Kremlin of consolidating control over the country's political life ahead of elections next year to make sure its opponents stand no chance of winning.

"Nobody's planning to ban rallies, but it's necessary to put their organization in order, so that both participants and those who don't participate but happened to be in the same place feel secure," Tatiana Portnova, a city councilor with the Kremlin-backed United Russia party, said in televised comments.

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