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Russian MPs Call for Probe of Foreign NGOs

  • VOA News

FILE - A man passes by the office of "Memorial" rights group in Moscow, Russia. The building has the words “Foreign Agent (Loves) USA” spray-painted on its facade.

FILE - A man passes by the office of "Memorial" rights group in Moscow, Russia. The building has the words “Foreign Agent (Loves) USA” spray-painted on its facade.

The upper house of Russia's parliament has called for a dozen foreign non-governmental organizations to be scrutinized to determine whether they should be deemed "undesirable" in accordance with a recently-passed law.

The Federation Council on Wednesday formally asked Russia's foreign and justice ministries and Prosecutor General's Office to look into the activities of 12 NGOs, which are on a so-called "patriotic stop-list," consisting of what legislators describe as "foreign or international non-governmental organizations known for their anti-Russian bias."

Under the law, "undesirable" foreign or international NGOs are prohibited from conducting activities inside Russia, and Russian organizations are prohibited from receiving funding from them.

In May, President Vladimir Putin signed a law giving prosecutors the right to declare as "undesirable" foreign and international non-governmental organizations whose activities are deemed a threat to Russia's constitutional system, "defense capability or the security of the state."

Russian nationals who continue to "be involved" with such groups can face fines of up to $10,000 or even jail terms of up to six years.

The groups are: the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Freedom House, billionaire philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Foundations, the MacArthur Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Education for Democracy Foundation, the East European Democratic Center, the Ukrainian World Congress, the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council, and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.

In 2012, Russia passed legislation permitting authorities to label Russian NGOs that receive foreign funding as "foreign agents."

Freedom House, a New York-based human rights group and one of the 12 organizations on the Federation Council's list, said in a statement Wednesday:

"As the Russian government seeks to limit political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House sympathizes with organizations working for a better, more democratic Russia. We believe that the Kremlin should not fear citizens' rights and liberties. We also believe it is a mistake for the government to make it difficult for organizations like Freedom House to work in Russia. If people come to us seeking help to promote democracy and fundamental human rights, wherever those people may be, we will do our best to offer help."

On Tuesday, law-enforcement officers in Moscow raided the offices and homes of staff members of Golos, a Russian election-monitoring NGO that was declared a "foreign agent" in 2013. The organization has received grants from the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit foundation funded by the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, a U.S. government agency.

On Wednesday, two Russian NGOs that have been labeled as "foreign agents" - Dynasty, a leading scientific foundation, and the Committee to Prevent Torture, a human rights group - announced they were closing down.

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