Russia Clamps Down on Foreign-Funded Rights Groups
Russia’s parliament on Wednesday passed a law tightening controls on civil rights groups funded from abroad, a measure that foes of President Vladimir Putin say is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle political opposition.
Ignoring criticism of the bill by the United States, the Kremlin-controlled upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, sped the bill through with just one vote against and one abstention in its last session before a summer break.
The rushed adoption signals the importance Putin attaches to the law, which will force non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” and to file a report to officials every quarter.
The term “foreign agents”, which NGOs will be forced to print on all their publications, carries the same associations of Cold War espionage and treachery that it does in the West.
The penalties for failing to comply with the law include six months’ suspension without a court order and, for individuals, up to three years in jail.
Those who risk being stigmatised include the human rights group Amnesty International, the corruption watchdog Transparency International and the election monitoring group Golos (Voice), which was instrumental in compiling and publicising allegations of fraud in December’s parliamentary election.
Opposition groups say Putin is trying to silence groups whose criticism of his human rights record has undercut his credibility and helped to fuel seven months of protests against his rule, the biggest since he came to power in 2000.