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Russian NGOs face more scrutiny

Russian NGOs face more scrutiny
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Russia’s parliament has been discussing tightening the law that regulates charities and campaign groups that engage in political activities and receive overseas funding.

The move came as Russia’s main independent electoral watchdog, Golos, which had proposed a change in Russia’s electoral code, faced closure for failing to register as a ‘foreign agent’.

The leader of the Just Russia party, Sergei Mironov said: “If the claims of foreign funding are true it’s a bit bizarre. And if we deal with the Russian electoral code, then that’s an internal matter for us. Why should anyone from abroad finance that?”

Russia’s Ministry of Justice has accused Golos of failing to join the register of so-called foreign agents, demanded by a new law last year.

The accusations seem to centre on the Sakharov Freedom Award, which organisation won and which includes a prize of more than 7,000 euros.

A Golos spokesman said they had never received that money.

Deputy director Grigory Melkonyants said he was puzzled by the timing: “This has all come out of thin air. This 7,000 euros from the Sakharov prize – that we had to refuse – and questions about an electoral project that we worked on two years ago. It seems the Ministry of Justice have been asked specifically to wage this kind of campaign.

“But I’m sure it’s not very pleasant for the Justice Ministry because they are lawyers and they understand all of this very well. But I think they have this objective: to bring this case to court, to create a scandal and tell society that they’ve found these foreign agents.”

President Putin believes NGOs could be used as fronts for foreign meddling in Russian affairs. The US State Department has said it looks like a witch hunt.