News / Europe

Kerry Raises Concerns About NGOs in Russia

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Moscow Helsinki Group founding member and chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseyeva, U.S. ambassador's residence, Moscow, May 8, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Moscow Helsinki Group founding member and chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseyeva, U.S. ambassador's residence, Moscow, May 8, 2013.
— Following discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is concerned about how non-governmental organizations that have received U.S. funding are being treated by the Kremlin.
 
The new Russian law requires organizations in Russia that receive money from abroad to register as foreign agents, a term synonymous with espionage during Soviet times.
 
Since the law was enacted last year, hundreds of NGOs have come under heavy scrutiny by the government and have even been raided and had legal action taken against them. Many of the NGO employees say they feel like they’re being harassed by the state.
 
Political and civil activist Lev Ponomaryov says the hostile situation in Russia affects society.
 
"We are not only talking about the liquidation of independent human rights and other movements," he said. "An unconstitutional coup is taking place in Russia, and these words are pretty serious accusations."
 
While Kerry says Washington is worried about the Kremlin’s crackdown on the organizations, Ponomaryov says he is not convinced the United States will do anything about the situation.
 
"Once again U.S. officials are using smooth language, saying, 'we sympathize with you; we are not going to abandon you; that you are at the forefront of the fight for democracy,'" said Ponomaryov, describing U.S. sentiment as "smooth talking."
 
"These are Russia’s domestic issues and it will be difficult for the United States or any foreign government to have much influence," he said.
 
Last month, a Moscow court ruled that Golos, the only independent vote-monitoring agency in Russia, pay roughly $65,000 for receiving money from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, an organization that supports people who are persecuted for their opinions. The head of Golos says it has not received any money from abroad since the NGO law was enacted last November.
 
The Kremlin maintains that it is merely enforcing the law.
 
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims unprecedented protests he is facing Russia are being funded by the United States.

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by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
May 08, 2013 8:40 PM
The political and civil activist Lev Ponomaryov shouldn’t be frustrated about the hostile situation in Russia affecting society, the liquidation of independent human rights and other movements, about the unconstitutional coup that has taken place in Russia and the reluctance of the US to interfere. To his dismay the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was of opinion that "These are Russia’s domestic issues and it will be difficult for the United States or any foreign government to have much influence." In his impatience Lev Ponomaryov overlooked that the Kremlin has suddenly changed its mood lately and Mr. Putin has smiled (imagine that!) to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. One year ago it would look impossible when Mr. Putin was furious at the USA when he had faced the opposition to his prolonged stay in power. Although not admitting publicly, the Kremlin has recognised the severity of the situation domestically and internationally it has found itself in. Now Mr. Putin wants to win time, to prolong his rule and stay at the helm. Russian opposition should applaud at U-turn displayed by the FSB regime willing wider cooperation with the USA.

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