Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Russia's Prosecutor General Lashes out at NGOs

Russia's prosecutor general on Tuesday accused 215 NGOs of bypassing a recent law on foreign funding by refusing to register themselves as foreign agents. Parliament passed a controversial law in November requiring all such groups that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as foreign agents, a term that carries Cold War connotations of spying. Critics said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against almost any non-governmental organization. Prosecutors have searched the offices of as many as 2,000 NGOs across the country, while 36 groups have had legal action brought against them, according to Agora, an NGO that provides legal assistance to other NGOs and is itself one of the 36. At a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika defended the sweeping searches, saying they have uncovered 215 NGOs that "in our opinion" should register as foreign agents, even though most of them stopped receiving foreign funding after the bill was passed. Chaika also decried attempts by some NGOs, including Agora and election monitor Golos, to "dodge the law" and urged the groups to comply. Golos was fined 300,000 rubles (about $10,000) in April in the first penalty imposed under the law. In a statement that made top news in Russia on Tuesday, Chaika told Putin that prosecutors have uncovered 17 Russian NGOs that have received funding through embassies.

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