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Prosecutor-general briefs on NGO “foreign agents”

July 11, 2013, 10:16 UTC+3
At a Federation Council session on Wednesday Yuri Chaika made public results of NGO “foreign agents” inspection
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Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika spoke at the Federation Council on Wednesday focusing on non-governmental organizations that the prosecutor’s office tries to brand as “foreign agents.”

He publicly disclosed “foreign agents” evading registration and named facts of the direct financing of NGOs’ political activities by embassies of the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland accusing them of violating the Vienna Convention.

At a Federation Council session on Wednesday Yuri Chaika made public results of NGO “foreign agents” inspection, about which he briefed President Vladimir Putin earlier, the Kommersant business daily reported. He said in the period from November 2012 to April 2013 Russia’s 2,226 non-governmental organizations received 30.8 billion roubles from abroad. Of them 358 were set up by state-run structures that injected into them 6.6 billion roubles, other 1,868 non-governmental organizations received 24.2 billion roubles from abroad. As checkups began, none of them was registered as “a foreign agent,” while 103 NGOs took a “wait-and-see” position stopping their political activity or suspending receipt of foreign funds. Nevertheless, “signs of political activity” financed from abroad (over 6 billion roubles) were exposed in 215 out of 1,000 inspected NGOs in 2010-2013. Twenty-two organizations directly fall under the “foreign agents” law, but do not recognize this.

These NGOs “participated in election campaigns, public events, law making processes and provided detailed reports on funds spending to their sponsors,” Chaika said.

Moreover, Chaika also brought accusations against foreign embassies, the daily wrote. “In violation of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties seventeen organizations engaged in political activities were directly financed by embassies of the United States, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, this is interference into our country’s domestic affairs and such actions violate generally recognized norms of the international law,” he said.

A source in the British Embassy told Kommersant that the UK provides financial assistance to Russia’s non-governmental organizations that seek to develop civil society in such areas as protection of human rights, environmental problems, etc. All information about the financing of Russia’s NGOs is placed on the British Embassy’s website.

Chaika said under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties “embassies have no right to finance NGOs.”

Lawyer Sergei Golubok told Kommersant that there is no such a norm in the Convention, but the Russian authorities try to justify their actions by the international law, but there is no such justification.

The prosecutor-general made public amendments that his office will submit to the president for consideration soon. Moreover, aside from specifying the notion “political activity” the prosecutor’s office plans to oblige NGOs getting the financing from abroad to report on the sources and volumes of financing, to get permission for annual inspections of NGOs, to ban governmental and municipal officials to participate in NGO activities, to empower judicial authorities to get the information subject to bank secrecy and to record non-registered NGOs. The Federation Council supported the initiative.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta paid attention to the fact that the general-prosecutor placed a focus on the search of “foreign agents” among NGOs that have access to government institutions. Chaika said four active foreign agents and three clandestine ones were found in the Presidential Council for Civil Society Human Rights. He did not disclose the names of those agents, but drew attention to evident threat to peace and calmness of the Russian people emanating from them.

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