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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 10:58 GMT
Russian MPs act to 'curb' NGOs
Russian police remove a human rights activist protesting outside the Duma in Moscow
Rights activists have been campaigning against the bill
Russia's lower house of parliament has backed in principle a bill that will give the state greater control over non-governmental organisations.

In a 370-18 vote, the State Duma approved in the first reading the bill that would require all NGOs to re-register with a state commission.

The bill's sponsors say the aim is to prevent money laundering and improve financial oversight.

NGOs say it will significantly curb their activities.

More than 1,000 NGOs have been urging the house to reject the bill.

It is clear that the Kremlin is determined to crack down on politically-active NGOs who receive foreign money for fear they might help foment Ukraine's style Orange Revolution in Russia, the BBC's Emma Simpson reports from Moscow.

The debate in the Duma comes just months after President Vladimir Putin announced that he would not allow foreign funding of political activities in Russia.

Procedurally, the bill will have to go for further readings in the Duma and will require presidential signature to become law.

'Sane law'

Some 1,300 NGOs on Tuesday issued a statement said the bill "hinders the development of civil society" in Russia.

Vladimir Putin

The statement said that the proposed legislation would particularly target human rights organisations.

Lawyers for the big foreign groups - like Human Rights Watch - believe international organisations will no longer be able to have branch offices in Russia, our correspondent says.

Instead, they would have to register as independent Russian legal entities, a condition that many NGOs will find difficult to meet, she says.

But the authors of the bill reject such criticism as unfounded, saying they simply want to extend checks standard for political parties to NGOs.

"This is an absolutely fine and an absolutely sane law. All these cries from its opponents have no relation to the actual law because the law does nothing but establish order," MP Andrei Makarov told Reuters news agency.

There are about 300,000 NGOs currently operating in Russia.

Ukraine demands Russian respect
15 Apr 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
28 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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