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“Foreign agents” law challenged at Constitutional Court

March 06, 2014, 16:04 UTC+3 ST. PETERSBURG
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ST. PETERSBURG, March 06. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia's Constitutional Court has begun examining controversial legislation obliging non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financed from abroad to register as “foreign agents”.

Asking the court to deem the law breaches basic law, Russian Ombudsman Service official Viktor Mikhailov said the law had given the government additional financial control over such organizations, enabled frequent planned inspections and provided for unannounced checks.

Many terms fuelled uncertainty, he said, instancing those concerning the nature and amount of foreign financing.

“Participation in political activities is a vague term,” Mikailov said, since clauses in dispute allowed classification of almost any non-governmental activities as “political”.

Administrative fines for NGO’s and their heads were not proportional, he complained, adding that the Constitutional Court had recently ruled law introducing “excessive” fines for legal entities breached the Constitution.

Scrutiny follows amendments to federal law approved in July 2012 specifying that organizations financed from abroad and politically engaged in Russia were classified as foreign agents and obliged to register with the Ministry of Justice or risk administrative penalties.

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