News / Europe

    Putin Introduces Measures to Curb Political Opposition

     Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012.
    Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012.
    James Brooke
    MOSCOW — For months, presidential candidate Vladimir Putin had to put up with protests.  Now, President Putin is fighting back.

    First, he pushed through a law dramatically raising fines for protest organizers.  Now, he is pushing through a law that would require all foreign-funded non governmental groups, NGO's in Russia to carry the label: 'foreign agent.'

    This would apply to the Russia chapters of such groups as: Amnesty International, Transparency International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

    In 1976, Lyudmila Alexeyeva helped to set up the Moscow Helsinki Group to monitor human rights violations in the Soviet Union. Now 84, Alexeyeva says she prefers to let Putin shut the group down, rather than accept the label of 'foreign agent."

    "I strongly declare to you that the Moscow Helsinki Group will never register as a agent of a foreign government, she said in an interview in her central Moscow apartment, because we are not an agent of a foreign government."
     
    Olga Lenkova comes from the new generation of Russian dissidents. She works with Vykhod, or Coming Out, a St. Petersburg gay rights group. She says that the all-powerful Kremlin scares Russians away from giving money to opposition groups.

    "There are a lot of NGOs that are funded from foundations that are based abroad, she said in her office in St. Peterburg. And if all of them are considered like foreign agents, then you are not supposed to criticize the government in any way. That is what our job is, to criticize the government and say things need to change."

    Last week, one ruling party Duma deputy, Robert Shlegel, said that Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, should be declared a 'foreign agent.' His Gorbachev Foundation receives foreign donations.

    Aleksandr Sidyakin, who sponsored the foreign agent bill, wrote on his blog : "The ultimate goal of funding nonprofit organizations, as a form of 'soft power,' is a colored revolution."  He added: "The United States is trying to affect Russian politics."

    On Friday, the bill received the votes of 72 percent of members of Russia’s parliament, or Duma. A final vote is due in coming days.

    The foreign agent bill comes after raids on apartments of protest organizers, arrests of protest participants and a new bill to control the Internet.

    Carnegie Moscow analyst Masha Lipman says that Putin is steadily restricting freedoms in Russia in the two months since he was inaugurated to a third term as president, on May 7.

    "Recently, there has been a clear trend toward a crackdown: The searchers; the raids; the new law; the ordinary protester being arrested, which is especially alarming because people identify very easily with somebody who is just a Muscovite, just a young person, just a businessman. And several of them have already been arrested.  There is clearly the trend toward the crackdown," she said.

    After all these restrictions, the next test of Russia’s political opposition will come on July 26, the date for Moscow’s next big street protest.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora