Armed pro-Russian militants board a truck in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on May 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY
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While all eyes are turned to Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has quietly enacted laws which opponents say will strengthen his hand in a battle against dissent in Russia.Putin signed laws on Monday envisaging tougher punishment for people involved in riots and imposing life sentences for various "terrorist" crimes. He also approved tighter controls on bloggers, some of whom have emerged as opposition leaders and have used the Internet to criticise Putin and arrange protests. The moves underline Kremlin concern that the unrest in Ukraine, where demonstrations put the Moscow-backed president to flight, might encourage protests in Russia, even though the annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine has helped push Putin's ratings to their highest level since late 2010 .Some of the staunchest Kremlin critics, including leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov, echo the Kremlin's line that the Kiev protests which ousted the president were staged by "fascists".
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