Foreign-Funded Nonprofits in Russia Face New Hurdle

New York Times

In the latest move to rein in dissent, Russian authorities have introduced a draft law that would require nonprofit organizations that receive financing from outside Russia to publicly declare themselves “foreign agents” — a term that, to Russians, evokes cold war-era espionage and is likely to discredit the organizations’ work in the eyes of the public.

Lawmakers from United Russia, the governing party, have accelerated work on the bill and are scheduling the first of three readings on Friday. If passed, the bill would complement a new law penalizing Russians for taking part in unauthorized protests, which was rushed through Parliament at a similar pace last month.

The bill would also put new burdens on nonprofit groups with foreign financing that are judged to be involved in politics, including annual audits and unannounced checks for the use of “extremist speech” in published materials. Organizations could face fines of as much as 1 million rubles, or $30,000, for violations.

Rights activists have excoriated the proposal as an attempt to discredit their work, arguing that Russian donors are afraid to support organizations that criticize the government, which then leaves them dependent on foreign sources for money.

Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who presides as grande dame of Moscow’s nonprofit circles, said she would shut down her 36-year-old organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, rather than accept the term “foreign agent.”

“Let them shut us down if they want,” Ms. Alexeyeva, 84, told the Interfax news agency on Monday. “We are not agents of foreign governments. We protect the rights of our citizens when their rights are violated.”

The bill’s sponsors say the law is no more restrictive than the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an American law requiring organizations to disclose foreign support. That law, however, applies only to entities that represent governments; the Russian proposal includes individual and private financial support as well.

Aleksandr Sidyakin, a United Russia deputy who also sponsored the law on demonstrations, has said that Russians need to be able to distinguish between civic initiatives and “the influence of foreign capital and foreign ideas.”

“The ultimate goal of funding nonprofit organizations, as a form of ‘soft power,’ is a colored revolution,” like the street protests that toppled leaders in Georgia and Ukraine, Mr. Sidyakin wrote on his blog on Friday. “This is not a myth of government propaganda, it is objective political reality. The United States is trying to affect Russian politics.”

Mr. Sidyakin specifically mentioned nonprofit organizations that monitor elections — an activity that took on added relevance after widespread reports of election fraud set off protests in December. The most prominent such organization, Golos, has been monitoring Russian elections for 11 years and is financed by two American agencies, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Agency for International Development. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia seemed to single out Golos in a speech late last year, attacking “so-called grant recipients” and adding, “Judas is not the most respected biblical figure among our people.”

Grigory A. Melkonyants, the organization’s deputy director, said that Golos has repeatedly applied for grants awarded by the Russian government but has been consistently refused, and that Russian companies are afraid to offer it open support. He said he is extremely wary of the new bill, which he said could be the prelude to criminal charges.

“In Russia, nothing is done for no reason, and officials will understand perfectly well the signal that is being sent,” he said. “How they will implement this law, that is the most frightening.”

Maria Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the bill may be intended as retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, which would penalize Russian officials for rights abuses. The government already has broad authority to audit and penalize nonprofit organizations, she said, so the draft law may function as a warning.

“Ideally, I think, the government would want to have no political activism that is not loyal,” she said. “What’s wrong with foreign funding for the government is it endows the fundees with autonomy. The Kremlin is extremely wary of autonomy. Any domestic player can be intimidated into submissiveness.” займ на карту без отказов круглосуточно hairy girl https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php займ онлайн на карту без отказа

манимен займ онлайн credit-n.ru займ на киви без привязки карты
мгновенный кредит на карту онлайн credit-n.ru беспроцентный займ онлайн на карту
займ на карту мгновенно без отказа credit-n.ru займ на кредитную карту мгновенно
онлайн займ на киви кошелёк срочно credit-n.ru займ без процентов на карту мгновенно

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

Place your comment

Please fill your data and comment below.

Your comment