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Russian Upper House Approves Restrictions On NGOs


December 27, 2005

The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, has overwhelmingly approved a law imposing restrictions on the work of non-governmental organizations.

Senators in the Federation Council voted 153-1 in favor of the Kremlim-sponsored measure, with one abstention, AP reported. Since the lower house approved the bill last week, President Vladimir Putin now needs only to sign the legislation for it to become law.

Critics consider this law a setback for the development of civil society in Russia. Human rights activists said that if the law was approved, they would address the European Court of Human Rights.

The bill grew out of the Kremlin's increasing displeasure with NGOs that criticize the government, advocate democracy and promote human rights. Such groups, many financed by Western institutions, played significant roles in the mass demonstrations that helped bring opposition leaders to power in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

According to the bill, all of the country's 450,000 NGOs will have to re-register with a state body. Foreign NGOs will have to send notification to the Federal Register Service outlining their funds and plans. Some groups have said the law would also expose them to a heavy tax burden. NGOs may not be registered if their goals "oppose the Constitution and Russian law, threaten Russia's sovereignty, political independence, territorial inviolability, national unity and originality, cultural legacy and national interests."

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