Closer monitoring of non-governmental organisations working in Russia is a step nearer after the lower house of Russia’s parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill critics claim will stifle protests against President Vladimir Putin.
Outside the parliament building, protesters carried posters with slogans accusing politicians of paranoia and fascism.
“The main goal of this law is not even to clamp down, to tighten the screws on non-governmental organizations – the screws have already been tightened from all directions. The main goal is to degrade civil society,” said Yabloko opposition party leader Sergei Mitrokhin.
The law was proposed by Putin’s United Russia Party, but has wide political backing. Three hundred and twenty-three out MPs in the 450-seat parliament voted in its favour.
“No one is trying to ban the activity of NGOs. We’re talking about just one thing – that if you get money from abroad, and are engaging in politics, then beforehand you must say ‘We’re an organization that’s receiving money from abroad. We’re an agent of foreign influence’,” explained United Russia deputy Andrei Isaev.
If passed, the law would compel any NGOs who receive financing from abroad to register as ‘foreign agents’ – a term some see as hostile and having Cold War connotations.
There will be two more readings in the Duma and one in the upper house before the bill can be passed.