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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Putin defends tighter law on NGOs
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Civil G-8 conference in Moscow
President Putin urged NGOs to submit their own proposals
Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended a controversial new law, tightening control on non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

At a meeting with NGOs in Moscow, he said the Kremlin had responded to the criticism from some NGOs by amending the law, without elaborating further.

Human rights groups have criticised the bill signed by Mr Putin in January, saying it will stifle civil society.

It gives Moscow broad powers to monitor the activities and finances of NGOs.

The new powers include the right to suspend NGOs, should they threaten Russia's sovereignty or independence.

'Amendments included'

Mr Putin told the Civil G-8 conference that Russia had reacted to the sharp criticism from some NGOs and Western governments by sending Russian officials to discuss the new law with the Council of Europe.

"I included all of these suggestions in the president's amendments to the bill," he said, without giving any further details.

Mr Putin also urged NGOs to submit their own proposals to modify the law.

However, he again stressed that Moscow would not allow foreign governments to "finance any political activities" in Russia.

Russia's FSB security service - the main successor to the Soviet KGB - has accused Western intelligence agents of using NGOs to foment revolution in the former Soviet Union.

Hecklers

At one point, Russian anti-nuclear campaigners tried to disrupt Mr Putin's speech.

Anti-nuclear protesters with T-shirts that spell No to nuclear power station
The protesters were members of the Ecodefence group

Wearing T-shirts that spelled out "No To Nuclear Power Stations" in a Russian abbreviation, six people stood up to attract the audience's attention.

However, Mr Putin reacted calmly. "Let them be, they came here to express themselves," he told security guards.

The two-day Civil G-8 conference brought together some 700 from Russian and international NGOs and human rights groups.

It is being held ahead of a G-8 summit later this month.




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