[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 16:40 GMT
Russian MPs pass key NGO measure
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Moscow

Russian police remove a human rights activist protesting the bill outside the Duma. File photo
Rights activists have been campaigning against the bill
Russian MPs have approved a controversial bill that would tighten state control over non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The lower house, the Duma, passed the bill in the second of the three readings it needs to become law.

The authorities argue the changes are necessary to ensure the security of the Russian state.

The bill has been criticised by human rights groups and Western governments as a threat to civil society.

'Foreign spies'

It is one of the most controversial bills to be debated in the Russian parliament since President Vladimir Putin came to power.

There was little doubt that it would pass its second reading.

Russia's parliament is dominated by pro-Kremlin MPs and it is the Kremlin which has been leading the call for tighter controls over the activities and finances of non-governmental organisations.

If adopted, the new legislation would provide just that, making Russian and Western NGOs more accountable to the state.

The authorities argue that NGOs are being used by Western governments and foreign spies to fan revolution across the former Soviet Union.

But human rights groups accused the Kremlin of trying to strangle civil society and of legislating to extend its own power.

There has been widespread criticism of the draft law in Russia and abroad, including from the US Congress and the Council of Europe.

Earlier this month, President Putin proposed a number of changes, but prominent Russian NGOs have complained that even in its revised form, the bill would severely hamper their activities and represents a danger to democracy.

Russia accuses groups of spying
08 Dec 05 |  Europe
Russian MPs act to 'curb' NGOs
23 Nov 05 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific