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Checks of foreign non-profit making organizations threaten to aggravate relations with the West

March 28, 2013, 11:25 UTC+3
Prosecutors' checks of two German foundations operating in Russia evoked a sharp reaction from the German authorities and the European Union
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Prosecutors' checks of two German foundations operating in Russia, within the framework of the sweeping inspection of non-profit making organizations /NGO/, evoked a sharp reaction from the German authorities and the European Union. Experts said it may threat relations between Moscow and Berlin and that the issue will be certainly raised during the meeting on April 7 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Also, prosecutors checked the Russian branches of the French public organization Alliance Francaise in Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Perm, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Russian prosecutors visited two German organizations at once, as part of a sweeping check, the Kommersant writes. In Moscow, prosecutors were interested in the activity of the Friedrich Ebert foundation, which us supported by Germany's Social-Democratic Party, while in St Petersburg, they inspected an office of the Konrad Adenauer branch, supported by the Christian-Democratic Union. The inspectors were looking for the foundation's documents and the reports on the activity of the two organizations. In Petersburg, they seized Adenauer foundation computers.

"The work of our office is practically paralyzed. We did not expect such a thing to happen. It's a very alarming signal when they treat in this manner the organizations that engage in improving bilateral relations," head of Adenauer Foundation Russia Lars-Peter Schmidt told the newspaper.

The newspaper reminds that sweeping checks were initiated by the Prosecutor General's Office in late February. As of March 27, 90 non-profit organizations in 24 Russian regions had been checked. The checks were sharply criticized by not only rights activists, but also European authorities. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said she was "very concerned with the ongoing actions of the authorities against the NGO community." On Wednesday, the actions by Russian law-enforcement bodies caused a sharp reaction in Germany, one of the friendliest countries towards Russia in the EU. Minister-Counselor of the Russian Federation in Berlin Oleg Krasnitsky was summoned to the German foreign ministry over NGO checks.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes that one of the foundations, in particular the Konrad Adenauer Foundation is "close to Angela Merkel's Party. Putin and Merkel are due to meet in early April. The Chancellor invited Putin to the Hannover industrial fair, where Russia will be the main partner. It will provide an opportunity to the two leaders to give a new impulse to partnership relations. So the parties do not need any complications, the newspaper believes.

It is not always clear how Russian law-enforcers determine the time and targets for their actions, even if they do it in accordance with the law, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta underlines. However, it was easy to predict the German reaction, while taking into account the obvious elements of anti-Russian apprehension, criticism and mistrust in part of Berlin's political establishment. The federal government, politicians and the press immediately gave full backing to their citizens. Warnings, denunciation and bewilderment were expressed by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Federal Government Commissioner For Human Rights Policy Markus Loning and a number of leaders and party deputies.

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