The media reported that already on Friday the group of United Russia deputies may move in the State Duma a bill, which toughens the operation of the non-profit organizations, which are funded from abroad and are engaged in politics. Such non-profit organizations were named as “organizations, which function as foreign agents,” their activities can be suspended and their leadership can be subject to a big fine or criminal persecution. These organizations will have to register and report in the special way. Among the authors of the bill is deputy Alexander Sidyakin, who is an author of the new reading of the law on rallies. The Kremlin supports the initiative, referring to the international practice. Representatives of the non-profit organizations, which are within the effect of the bill, believe that the state authorities are afraid of the exports of the Orange moods from abroad.
The Kommersant daily reported that the group of United Russia deputies have drafted and will move in a bill, which outlines new rules for the activities of the non-profit organizations, which are engaged in politics and are funded from abroad. The political activities of such non-profit organizations regardless their charter goals will be considered to be the participation in political actions, which should influence the decisions and the policy of the state, and the shaping of the relevant “public opinion”.
According to the concept of the bill the Justice Ministry will open a special register of the organizations, which “function as foreign agents (the authors acknowledged that the term is taken from similar laws, which are in effect in other countries, particularly in the United States). Within 90 days since the date when the law enters into force the organizations engaged in politics that are funded from abroad on donations of individuals and grants of international organizations, should be put on this register voluntarily. After that the special regime of activities will come into effect for them. In particular, they should mark their literature, reports and other public products according to their new status.
For the non-fulfilment of this requirement fines up to one million roubles are envisaged. The non-profit organizations should produce the financial statements twice a year, an annual tax inspection and the external audit are compulsory. The violators of the financial reporting will be fined 200,000-300,000 roubles for officials, blatant violators will be put in prison for up to three years, and the very non-profit organization will be suspended. If the non-profit organization does not get on the register voluntarily, the Justice Ministry can conduct its own inspection or expose the violators with the assistance of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The Kremlin lauds the bill. A source in the presidential administration told the Kommersant daily that such bill is needed, because “there are some principles of openness: people should know who pays”, meanwhile, this is the case, when the similar legislation is in effect for a long time in other countries, but the Russian legislation does not envisage personal responsibility for violation of the rules of operation for the non-profit organizations.
Representatives of the non-profit organizations, which might be put on a new register in the Justice Ministry, believe that the Kremlin is just not interested in those organizations, the activities of which are not aimed at the support of the president and the government. Deputy executive director of the Golos organization Grigory Melkonyants believes that in some circles the non-profit organizations “are taken even as a threat of a coup d’etat, which is allegedly funded from abroad.”
“They put themselves in a ridiculous position, inventing such idiotic laws,” head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva believes. The human rights activist noted that the law will influence the numerical strength of the non-profit organizations. “The human rights activists will not find the funding in Russia unless an independent business appears that will be not afraid of the authorities,” she noted.
United Russia deputies Alexander Sidyakin and Irina Yarovaya have drafted the bill, the Izvestia daily reported. “This bill should ensure the absolute transparency of foreign funding sources in our country,” the newspaper quoted a source close to the presidential administration as saying. Now the Justice Ministry cannot get the information about the sources of funding of several non-profit organizations and where and for what purposes these funds are spent.
Putting of a non-profit organization on the register of the ministry will be voluntary. Those non-profit organizations that did not get on the register or fail to provide financial statements will face a harsh punishment. Legal entities are planned to be fined up to one million roubles and officials – up to 300,000 roubles. The term “blatant violators” is introduced, they are those who ignored the requirements of the law repeatedly. In this case a term of up to three years in prison is envisaged for officials.
Since 1991 the Russian civil society has invested officially about five billion dollars from abroad, but it is impossible to name the real figure, the Vedomosti daily cited Director General of the Institute of Foreign Political Studies and Initiatives Veronika Krasheninnikova as saying. Some 260,000 non-profit organizations operate in Russia now, the US National Endowment for Democracy funds thousands of our organizations alone. Recently the number of recipients of such aid has been getting larger, small organizations in the regions and the media receive this aid rather than federal structures. “The pro-Washington lobby” has formed in Russia, and it can finance all these organizations itself, as the ban is useless in this case, but it is important just to single out those, which are obviously engaged in politics, she said.
This initiative is the response to the Magnitsky Act, a United Russia deputy close to the State Duma leadership, believes. The irony concludes in Sidyakin’s new bill to contain many provisions of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act. The new bill will be in effect against the United States, which mainly funds Russian non-profit organizations.
All types of organizations can be within the scope of political activities, head of Greenpeace Russia (the organization that get most donations from foreign citizens) Sergei Tsyplenkov told the newspaper. This bill means a new period of “a cold spell” after the thaw in the relations between the non-profit organizations and the state authorities, the bill may ruin many organizations, which are already spending substantial funds for bureaucratic procedures. The United Russia initiative is one of the outcomes of the political winter and spring in Russia, but the non-profit organizations not engaged in politics may be under threat in the heat of the moment.
The Russian authorities probably believe that the engine of the protests has external rather than internal reasons, political expert Mikhail Vinogradov believes, noting that such actions will only intensify the protesting mobilization.