After harsh criticism from civil rights and free-speech advocates, Russia's Parliament agreed Friday to amend a proposed law that would have banned people from demonstrating in the majority of public places.
In its second reading of the bill, the lower house will remove language banning demonstrations outside government buildings, embassies and the offices of international organizations, as well as along main roads, railways and pipelines.
Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin party United Russia backed off supporting the bill, which his party had voted for Wednesday.
Gryzlov, who is also a close ally of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said amendments would be introduced before the bill comes up for a second reading in the Duma. "The bill requires significant further work," he said on national television.
"It will be amended before the second reading," he said.
United Russia has controlled the Parliament since last fall, when elections restored the nation to a one-party majority.
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights condemned the bill.
"This draft law represents a crude attempt to stifle dissent by the public," Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the federation, said in a statement.
Russian authorities already required political gatherings and protests to obtain permits and advance permission, and police are generally quick to disperse unsanctioned demonstrations.
Gryzlov said, "The hottest public debate concerned the list of venues where demonstrations and pickets are banned, including outside government offices."
United Russia "formally offered amendments excluding some venues from the list," he said.
Gryzlov also said that a United Russia of Parliament, Pavel Krasheninnikov, on Thursday put forward an amendment to change the original bill.
He pledged amendments that would no longer restrict public events held outside buildings belonging to most executive departments, with the exception of the president's residence.
Aleksandr Yakovlev, the godfather of perestroika and a former aide to Mikhail Gorbachev, said, "If that bill had passed as it was, we could say goodbye to democracy."
Russian law requires that legislative bills be given at least three separate readings in the Parliament and that they receive the signature of the president before they are officially entered into the law.