News / Europe

Putin Urges Moderate Changes in 'Foreign Agent' Law

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, June 16, 2013.
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, June 16, 2013.
Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that a law branding some non-governmental organizations "foreign agents" should be changed to prevent harassment of groups that are not involved in politics.
 
His remarks signaled a moderate concession to critics of the law, which has raised concerns among Western governments and been condemned by critics of the Kremlin as part of a campaign to silence independent voices.
 
Russian authorities have carried out inspections of hundreds of NGOs under the law signed by Putin last year, which requires NGOs that receive funding from abroad and are deemed to be involved in political activity to register as "foreign agents" — a term used by the communist Soviet Union in the Cold War.
 
Rights campaigners say the authorities have interpreted political activity very broadly, targeting groups involved in issues including environmental advocacy, surveying public opinion and countering discrimination against homosexuals.
 
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says groups involved in wildlife preservation and helping people with cystic fibrosis had received warnings under the law, although these were later revoked.
 
Putin seemed to acknowledge that prosecutors and tax inspectors who have conducted a wave of inspections in recent months had cast their net too widely.
 
"I see that in practice, unfortunately, certain mishaps that we did not foresee are occurring," he told a group of Kremlin-aligned human rights activists. "It's necessary to separate [NGOs] involved in political and social issues and not to cause trouble to organizations that only deal with social and healthcare issues."
 
Putin ordered his administration to analyze and amend the law to avoid ambiguity, but made clear that foreign-funded NGOs deemed to be involved in politics would still be forced to register.
 
"If people are involved in domestic politics and receive cash from abroad, society has the right to know which organizations these are and who funds them," he said.
 
The inspections have led to fines and court cases against several NGOs, some of which have refused to register and said the term "foreign agent" is meant to brand them as traitors.
 
The vote-monitoring group Golos was suspended for six months after refusing to register as a foreign agent. The independent pollster Levada said it might have to close after prosecutors threatened to take it to court if it failed to register.
 
Putin, president in 2000-2008, has been clamping down on dissent since he returned to the Kremlin last year, fostering anti-Western sentiment among the public as a source of political support after he faced the biggest protests against his rule.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs