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NGOs find loopholes in Foreign Agents’ Law, officials urge corrections

RT | June 13, 2013

Russian NGOs that receive funding from abroad have developed several methods that allow them to bypass the obligatory registration as ‘foreign agents’.

Currently the law obliges all NGOs engaged in political activities and receiving funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents”under threat of fines.

One possible option is to register an ordinary commercial company that would receive funds from abroad and employ NGO staff as workers to pay their salaries, Kommersant daily wrote quoting the head of a Russian NGO who spoke on the condition of total anonymity.

The source noted that about 15 Russian groups had already switched to this method.

Another possible loophole, suggested by the daily itself, is to set up an endowment that would properly register as a foreign agent and receive foreign funding which would then be transferred to one or several Russian groups, allowing them to skip the registration as they are formally sponsored by a Russian company.

The third way has been outlined in a recent report by the Civil Initiatives Committee, an influential expert group chaired by former finance minister Aleksey Kudrin, which said that under growing pressure Russian NGOs could re-register in neighboring states.

Some Russian officials already called for changes in the recently approved law, saying that the flaws of the original bill are being exposed as it is applied. Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, said that the practice was only showing one thing – that the law had been poorly written and that it was in need of corrections.

Fedotov added that the council had already prepared several suggestions on corrections, but he did not go into detail.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich has said that the law needs changes and called for activists to draft their amendments. But Dvorkovich added that the law is in force and must be observed by all members of the community until it is altered in the desired way.

Russia introduced the so-called Foreign Agents Law in November last year.

Prosecutors and the Justice Ministry launched a major nationwide program in March this year in order to check how the fresh law is being applied. The inspections caused protests from NGOs, rights activists and the international community, which claimed they were a form of government pressure on independent critics.

Russian officials, including the president, have repeatedly stated that the law is not banning any NGOs and simply requires disclosure of the sources of their income. Such transparency would give Russian citizens and voters some clues about possible motives of the groups’ political actions, the officials added.

Currently no organization is registered as a foreign agent in Russia.

June 14, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on NGOs find loopholes in Foreign Agents’ Law, officials urge corrections

Russia instructs ‘Foreign Agent’ NGOs to report spending quarterly

RT | April 30, 2013

The Russian Justice Ministry has published an order for all NGOs that register as foreign agents, telling them to detail the spending of their funds every three months.

The ministry also instructs those groups with foreign agent status to prepare reports on their activities and management every six months and a full audit of their accounting books once a year.

So far, no organization has registered as a foreign agent in Russia even though the corresponding law came into force in November last year. This year the authorities launched a major inspection throughout the country and the prosecutors and the Justice Ministry now claim that 18 groups must receive the status.

The NGO audit is still underway.

This decision only led to protests from the groups who said that the inspection was ill-founded and any foreign sponsorship had taken place before the law came into force.

International organizations and rights groups, as well as foreign governments, have criticized the Russian Law on Foreign Agents as such, saying that it can be used as means of pressure and lead to underfunding of Russian rights organizations.

Russian sponsors of the law, including senior officials, replied that the law simply required the activists to clearly indicate the sources of their funding in order to better inform the public. The Russian side several times emphasized that no organization can be closed under the existing law.

President Vladimir Putin said in a recent interview with the German broadcaster ARD that the number of foreign-funded non-governmental organizations operating in Russia amounted to 654. He also said that these organizations received 28.3 billion rubles, or almost $1 billion, from their foreign sponsors in just four months that passed after the adoption of the Foreign Agents Law.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | Comments Off on Russia instructs ‘Foreign Agent’ NGOs to report spending quarterly