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Human rights NGOs hope to get government subsidies in Russia

April 02, 2013, 10:25 UTC+3

NGOs that get money from abroad plan to fight for presidential grants

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This year non-governmental organizations will get around 3 billion roubles from the government. President Vladimir Putin decreed that six special operators will distribute 2.3 billion roubles and the Economic Development Ministry 630 million roubles. Human rights NGOs getting foreign grants such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial and For Human Rights movement also hope to get government subsidies.

Today non-governmental organizations have already been ready to queue for this money, the Kommersant business daily wrote. NGOs that get money from abroad plan to fight for presidential grants as well, although they are not confident in their victory. Human rights activists believe that crackdowns on NGOs were launched in February to detect organizations that are financed from abroad and not registered as ‘foreign agents’. A member of the Board of Directors of the human rights group Memorial, Oleg Orlov, said “inspections were conducted to expose any violations, in particular those related to the law on extremism, but the main thing – to detect ‘foreign agents’.”

The newspaper recalled that NGOs financed from abroad had already received presidential grants. Thus, two years ago Memorial won the bidding contest and got the grant, Orlov said. The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, said one of Russia’s oldest human rights groups had also repeatedly received government subsidies. “We got the grant four years ago, then we had not received it for two years, although we participated in the contest. Last summer we received money to monitor human rights laws,” she said. Last year For Human Rights movement won two grants. The movement’s chief, Lev Ponomarev, said “we received around 4 million roubles for the Civil Ombudsman project and around 2 million roubles for employment of ex-convicts after their release from prison.”

Ponomarev said he “will ask for money to continue the projects.” “I do not know whether they are tolerant now as before or whether they will throw sand in the wheels: politics, ‘foreign agents’,” he said. “I have not been controlled so far, but may be later persecution of human rights activists will be much stronger than that of social NGOs.”

The Moscow Helsinki Group also plans to bid for grants, Mrs. Alexeyeva said. The human rights centre Memorial will probably also file documents. “It is necessary to file documents till we are not closed and have no results of the inspections that will appear in late April-early May,” Mr. Orlov told Kommersant. “Then it will be clear in what world we live.”

The head of the human rights organization Agora, Pavel Chikov, will not also refuse from a grant, the more so when Russia’s Justice Ministry considers it as a socially oriented group. Mr. Chikov recalled that in 2012 Agora received around 20 million roubles, most of which were foreign funds. “I have no plans to get rid of foreign financing just for the reasons of financial stability, because I do not want to fall into dependence from the Russian Federation.”

The president of the Institute for Civil Society Studies, Maria Slobodskaya, assured Kommersant that there would be no discrimination of human rights groups. “While discussing a future contest in the presidential administration we talked about how to make it more comfortable for NGOs,” she said. “There was no even half-hint who should be preferred.”


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