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President decides future of non-governmental organisations financed from abroad

July 11, 2012, 15:43 UTC+3

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On Tuesday President Vladimir Putin met with Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov, Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov, rejecting their proposal to put off the draft law declaring foreign-funded non-governmental organizations as “foreign agents” until autumn. However, he instructed to increase the financing of NGOs from the federal budget three-fold – from 1 billion roubles to 3 billion roubles. In his conclusion on the draft law Putin softened the initial variant. Non-governmental organizations protecting children, animals and plants and promoting charity and social issues will not fall under the term “foreign agents.” The new law will encompass activists protecting political rights of citizens. Experts say the law was targeted against several NGOs.

Soon after the meeting the Duma public organizations’ committee approved amendments put forward by United Russia for the second reading, the Vedomosti business daily reported. The law will not cover registered religious organizations, state corporations, budget-financed and medical institutions, the committee’s chairman, Yaroslav Nilov, said. Moreover, organizations specializing in culture, science, art, healthcare, social protection, maternity and childhood protection, support for disabled persons and promoting healthy lifestyle and sport, environmental protection and charity are not affected by this law. Later in the day the president put forward his amendments that repeated those made by parliamentarians, but with slight additions. In particular, these restrictions will not spread on all companies with state participation, municipal organizations and NGOs they created.

Another important amendment that the Kremlin initiated is division of the document into two parts, Vedomosti reported. Putin proposed to consider the part concerning administrative fines for breaking this law a separate issue. It will be submitted for consideration later today, adopted in the first reading and finalized in autumn. The first part concerning identification and operation of foreign agents will be adopted on Friday, but it will enter into force 120 days after to synchronize the two laws.

New amendments will bury everything pertaining to the protection of constitutional rights of citizens, the executive director of the human rights group Golos, Liliya Shibanova, was quoted by the daily as saying. Such NGOs come to a deadlock. Registering itself as a foreign agent, an organization recognizes that it is involved in political activities, while foreign funds’ charters ban the support for such organizations, and the refusal to register is fraught with imprisonment.

The president made concessions for non-governmental organizations, but in a rather specific manner, the daily noted. “I agree with those colleagues, who say if we adopt more or less tough restrictions for such organizations, we, of course, should increase our own financing of NGOs,” Putin said. “I believe that it should be increased no less than three times, i.e. from 1 billion roubles to 3 billion roubles.”  

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