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Russia’s law on NGOs acting as foreign agents may be improved — Putin

Russian President stressed that the law in no way restricts people’s freedoms

MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. Russia’s law on non-government organizations (NGO) operating as foreign agents can be further improved but its key objective - to prevent outside interference into Russia’s domestic affairs - must stay in place, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

He stressed that the law in no way restricts people’s freedoms. "Of course, this law needs to be further improved. We must see to it that it does what it is geared to do, namely to exclude any interference into our internal political life from outside directly or via agents by means of financing their activities in the country," Putin said. "This is why the law was passed. And if there are some drawbacks, they are to be looked at attentively."

Russia passed the foreign agent law in the summer of 2012. The law requires NGOs, which receive foreign funds and engage in political activity, to register as foreign agents and inform about this status when publishing their materials in the mass media.

For two years, registration as foreign agents was voluntary but in June 2014, Russia passed a law entitling the justice ministry to register NGOs as foreign agents if they act as such but have not done it voluntarily. Such registration may be challenged with court. Violations of the law carry a punishment from a fine to a prison term of up to two years for willful default.