The United States has added to mounting international criticism of the Kremlin’s continuing programme of inspecting the offices of non-governmental organisations, like charities and human rights campaign groups in Russia.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington is deeply concerned. “These inspections appear to be aimed at undermining important civil society activities across the country,” she told a news conference.
“We’ve shared our concerns with the government of Russia and we also remain disturbed by the series of laws that were passed by the government of Russia in 2012 and that are continuing to be looked at in 2013 which impose harsh restrictions on NGO activity in Russia,” Nuland added.
President Vladimir Putin introduced a law last year requiring groups that receive overseas funding and are involved in political activity to join a register of “foreign agents”.
At a meeting with Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Putin said: “I think that in these cases, the objective of these checks is to verify that the activities of these NGOs match their declared goals. Our aim is to check that they are respecting the law that bans foreign funding of political activities.”
Putin suspects that NGOs might provide a front for foreign meddling in Russian affairs. The US said the investigations look more like a witch-hunt.