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No sweeping checks planned after NPO law adoption, Kremlin says

July 02, 2012, 22:35 UTC+3
The document “makes it clear what ‘participation in political activities” means, the Kremlin official said
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MOSCOW, July 2 (Itar-Tass) —— There will be no sweeping checks by prosecutors after the adoption of the law that gives Russian non-profit organisations (NPOs) engaged in political activities and using foreign funding the status of “foreign agents” enters into force, a source in the presidential administration said.

Under the draft law, “if an NPO meets two conditions – gets foreign funding and is engaged in political activities – it will be required to be listed in the register of NPOs that perform the functions of ‘foreign agents’,” the source said. Foreign funding means “all money coming from abroad from governments, states, international or other organisations, individuals as well as Russian organisations with foreign capital with the exception of open joint stock companies with foreign capital”.

The document “makes it clear what ‘participation in political activities” means, the Kremlin official said.

When asked which NPO will be deemed “political”, he said, “If the Justice Ministry believes that an NPO meets two conditions and has not been included in the register, it will start administrative proceedings to penalise it and basically classify it as engaged in political activities”.

“The protocol then goes to court and the court decides whether to impose administrative penalties or not. In other words, it is the court that determines and formalises that an organisation is engaged in political activities. Therefore it is the jurisdiction of the court,” the official said.

“If we take all environmental organisations operating in Russia, experts say that 30 percent of them seek to protect the environment, for example rare species, but 70 percent is politics. Or if an organisation studies corruption or elections, it’s pure politics and it must get registered,” the official said.

“In the U.S. organisations engaged in economic lobbying are also deemed to be ‘foreign agents’,” he added.

At the same time, “if some NPO finances the construction of children’s homes or research into treatment of rare diseases, who in his right mind will claim that it’s politics?” the Kremlin official said.

However “such things as organisation of public lectures about politics” will be regarded as political activities. “Because this molds the public opinion. If for example, an NPO places certain materials in mass media on a permanent basis, how can one say that this is not the molding of the public opinion?”

The official noted that foreign laws and corporate regulations of the organisations that get foreign funding are such that they “are extremely interested to be open. They regularly publish certain data. They [foreigners] are tired of fighting corruption in these organisations. And we do not offer anything new to them,” the official said.

He pointed to the “regardless of the declared goals” wording in the draft law. “If the charter of an NPO says that it is engaged in politics from morning till night but still does not meet two conditions [engaged in politics and funded from abroad], it will not fall under this law. We make an assessment based on the actual activities of an organisation,” he said.

When asked whether sweeping checks by prosecutors will not follow the adoption of the law, the Kremlin official said, “Of course not.”

“We assume that the overwhelming majority of NPOs acting as foreign agents are civilized players in our political system. We hope that they will come and meet the requirements of Russian law,” he said.

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