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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 15:36 GMT
Head-to-Head: Russian NGOs bill
Russia's State Duma has approved in principle a new bill, giving the state greater control over non-governmental organisations working in the country.

The Deputy Director of the Moscow office of the US-based Human Rights Watch, Alexander Petrov, says many foreign NGOs could now be forced to leave Russia, while Duma deputy Alexei Ostrovsky says the bill will help weed out some unfriendly foreign influence.

ALEXANDER PETROV

The new bill would ban representative offices of foreign NGOs in Russia. Such groups would, instead, be required to re-register in accordance with the Russian law on public organisations.

The bill envisages that a council of trustees would be set up for such NGOs, made up of either Russian nationals or foreigners permanently living in Russia.

This is extremely dangerous for the whole non-governmental sector in Russia and for civil society

As there are very few foreigners living in Russia permanently, such a council would most definitely be completely made of Russian nationals.

This leads to the conflict of interests for foreign NGOs, as they would have two separate councils - say, one in New York and another in Moscow - reporting to two different bosses.

Also it is quite possible that the two councils would have differing visions of priorities for their NGOs in Russia.

I think that many foreign NGOs - including the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International AIDS Foundation East-West, Penal Reform International - would simply be forced to close their offices in Russia.

The claims of money-laundering through foreign NGOs are absolute nonsense. I have not heard of a single such case here.

We are fully accountable here, as we submit our financial reports every three months.

ALEXEI OSTROVSKY

Foreign NGOs must have Russian representation and be registered as Russian legal entities.

This bill confirms with the standards generally accepted in the world.

We have seen what happened in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and how these local branches of foreign NGOs funded by the CIA functioned

I do not think it is directly connected to recent events in Ukraine and Georgia, where some of the local branches of foreign NGOs were funded by special services of the US and other countries...

It would be a good thing if such NGOs leave Russia, because they do not defend the rights and freedoms of the Russian people.

Instead, they are trying to force ideas on us which could lead to an unconstitutional change of power.

I believe that the (US President George W) Bush administration and the UK Prime Minister (Tony) Blair government would have done exactly the same - ban NGOs from the countries with which the US has tense relations.

I mean Iran and North Korea, for example.



SEE ALSO
Russian MPs act to 'curb' NGOs
23 Nov 05 |  Europe

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