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MOSCOW, July 3 (Itar-Tass) - On Monday, members of the Presidential Human Rights Council have criticized the amendments to the bill on non-profit organizations. The bill, which grants the status of foreign agents to ‘political’ Russian non-profit organizations and will oblige them to register in the Justice Ministry, may be approved this month and may enter into force already this autumn. Meanwhile, about 1,000 non-profit organizations fit the term ‘foreign agent’ according to the provisions of the bill. The experts noted that the initiative will be detrimental to the reputation of the non-profit organizations.
Sources in the Kremlin boasted that they had copied the law from the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was enacted before the Second World War. Not waiting for the enactment of the bill, the Kremlin put it clearly that Golos, Transparency International – Russia and the Moscow Helsinki Group will be put on the register of foreign agents. The source explained that the same future is expected for up to 1,000 non-profit organizations, which meet two requirements – are funded from abroad and are engaged in politics. The term ‘politics’ will be interpreted in a broader sense, and any action, which seeks to shape the public opinion will be taken as this term, the Kremlin source noted.
On Monday, a new bill, which also toughens inspections of the non-profit organizations, was discussed at the Presidential Human Rights Council. Head of the council Mikhail Fedotov stated that the bill is not needed in the current variant, because many public organizations, including the Russian Orthodox Church, may be affected from its effect. “The church certainly has many foreign donations and it influences the public opinion. So, is it a foreign agent? I do not think so,” Fedotov told reporters.
The oldest Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva has made an even more categorical statement to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. She warned that she will quit the post of the chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group in sign of protest, “No project of the Moscow Helsinki Group is political. I make political statements sometimes as the chairperson. So, if it is needed, we will replace the chairperson. The position of an ordinary member will be enough for me. But they will not shut my mouth by any laws.” The chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group takes the variant of the full disbandment of the human rights agency as another variant.
The new law on rallies, which toughened the punishment for violations during massive events, was followed with a new spiral of struggle against “the Orange plague”, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. The group of deputies suggested complicating the life of the non-profit organizations, which live on the funds of foreign sponsors. The newspaper recalled that last Friday the United Russia deputies moved in the State Duma the bill, which grants the status of foreign agents to the non-profit organizations, which are funded from abroad.
“This bill runs counter to the presidential policy for transparency and democracy, which is particularly declared in the 601st presidential decree on the guidelines for the improvement of the state administration system. To say the least members of the council take it this way,” the newspaper quoted Mikhail Fedotov as saying.
The bill, which will compel ‘political’ Russian non-profit organizations with foreign sponsors to register in the Justice Ministry, may be approved in July and enter in force already this autumn, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported. “It is expected that the bill will be put up for the first reading on July 6 with all regulatory provisions observed, and therefore in case of its approval in the first reading the regulatory deadlines will make it possible to approve the bill already in a week in the second and third readings on about July 13,” the Kremlin source told reporters.
A special register will be made up to include the non-profit organizations, which are funded from abroad and engaged in political activities (for instance, the staging of the protest actions). About 230,000 non-profit organizations operate in Russia, several tens of thousands of organizations are financed from abroad. Yet, most of them are not engaged in politics.