Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law partially decriminalising domestic violence, in a move hailed by Russian conservatives but deplored by women’s rights campaigners.
The law ends criminal liability for battery of family members that does not cause bodily harm and is not a repeat offence.
It instead makes domestic battery equivalent to minor assault, which is an administrative offence punishable by a 30,000 ruble (£412) fine, 15 days in jail, or 120 hours of community service.
Repeat offences and attacks that cause injury will still be considered crimes.
Ultra conservative MPs who pushed the legislation through parliamentsaid it eliminates an anomaly in the law that criminalized parents smacking their own children but allowed strangers to do so with impunity, and that serious offenders will still be held accountable.
Women’s groups bitterly opposed the amendment, saying it would lift one of very few legal protections against domestic violence.
Activists picketed the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, when it considered the second reading of the bill last month. An online petition against it attracted more than 200,000 signatures.
The amendment passed all three readings in the Duma and became law when it was signed by Mr Putin and published on the government’s official legislative website on Tuesday.
Nearly 38,000 people, almost three quarters of them women, suffered assault by a family member in 2013, according to Russia’s interior ministry.
Women’s rights campaigners say the real number of victims is likely significantly higher, partly because many incidents are never reported.
A survey by VTsIOM, a state-run pollster, last month found that 19 percent of Russians said "it can be acceptable" to hit one's wife, husband or child "in certain circumstances."
Several rights groups have drafted a separate bill to specifically address the issue of domestic violence, but it has yet to be debated in the Duma.