MOSCOW, July 10 (RIA Novosti)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for amendments to a controversial bill that would force non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded from abroad and engaged in political activity to declare themselves “foreign agents."
“If we see today that these projects must be brushed up, I’m ready to ask lawmakers to introduce relevant amendments,” Putin said on Tuesday at a meeting on the pending legislation.
Putin urged the government “not to procrastinate until fall” with discussing the amendments.
Under the new bill, which was approved by the State Duma in its first reading on Friday, NGOs would have to publish a biannual report of their activities and carry out an annual financial audit. Failure to comply with the law could result in four-year jail sentences and/or fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,200).
Those engaged in political activity and funded from abroad will be labeled “foreign agents,” a term synonymous with spying and treason in the Soviet era, which has already met fierce criticism from human rights groups.
In an apparent move to soften the upcoming restrictions on NGOs, Putin proposed to boost state funding of non-governmental organizations to three billion rubles ($10 million) from one billion rubles ($3 million).
“If we introduce tougher conditions for the organizations’ activity, we must increase our own funding from the federal budget no less than three times, from one to three billion rubles ,” the president said.
He also warned against restricting religious organizations under the new law, in a move that might make life easier for Russian Orthodox Church, a pillar of Russia's establishment.
The country’s oldest rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, has said it will close down its offices rather than comply with the new law in its existing form. Russia’s Public Chamber also said last week that it would not support the bill - which has also been criticized by the Kremlin’s own rights council - in its current form.
The bill was proposed by United Russia lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin, the author of recent legislation that sharply increased fines for violations of regulations governing protests.
Speaking about a bill criminalizing libel that was introduced in the State Duma by a group of the United Russia lawmakers last week, Putin said that the article should return to the Criminal Code but without custodial sentences for offences.
“We will keep it in the Criminal Code, but will ask lawmakers to withdraw imprisonment as the liability for this offense,” Putin said.
The libel bill in its current format envisages jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000) for misinformation damaging a person's reputation.
Russia’s Human Rights Council advocates, Mikhail Fedotov and Vladimir Lukin, who also attended the meeting criticized re-criminalizing libel as it would spoil Russia’s image.
“We may become the only European country that made this step backwards. It’s harmful for our international image,” Fedotov said.
“If we set responsibility without imprisonment, it would be right,” Lukin said, adding that “a word should counter a word, but not jail.”
Putin will submit his proposals voiced at the meeting to the State Duma later on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
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- ruypenalvaNGOs from abroad are...21:11, 10/07/2012NGOs from abroad are foreign. What's wrong with the term? They are not in our country to help us. Sometimes they are kept by foreign states.
- hobbitofnyIt is not always to simple00:29, 11/07/2012I am a member of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church. I am a US citizen. If I give any money to support Orthodox Church's work in Russia, I think that would make the Russian Orthodox Church (an NGO) a "foreign agent" because they got some funding from abroad.
Do you really think the Russian Orthodox Church is not there to help Russia? Or that the work of Orthodox Christians funded by Orthodox Christians abroad means they are kept by foreign states? From what I have read this law needs much reworking and thought.
- PETEPETEPETERATS are already leaving!22:50, 10/07/2012"The country’s oldest rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, has said it will close down its offices rather than comply with the new law in its existing form."
The RATS are already leaving the Rebuilt Ship. Go away RATS.
Congratulations to the Russian leadership for dealing with the RAT infestation.
- Wolfgang9You are right Mr Putin,22:59, 10/07/2012I have the same information from the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Watch out, they will do anything to please their friends and supporters in the CIA!
Don't be naive. They are after you!
And after the resources of Russia.
- free_mind50(no title)05:36, 11/07/2012There really is no need for amendments. Russia is continually infiltrated through NGO's and religious organizations. this is just creating a transparency. If the goal is not to manipulate russian society of the sake of external special interests, then there is nothing to protest. Russia should not fall into the trap of placating public response based upon a whim or especially when it is instigated from abroad.
There are well established channels and lines of communication meant to benefit its enemies. Russia has a delicate task in dealing with this problem and rooting it out.
They are after Russia and they mean business.
- lmThe wise ones will always live off the foolish13:47, 11/07/2012Putin is right and should not amend the law let the NGO's ask there paymasters to amend their laws because similar laws do exist in other countries and even tougher.
This is the problems with Russian NGO’s and oppositions they are all time speaking about democracy and a need to adopt Western ways but when the Kremlin adopt these same laws it becomes a problem why?
How can they justify they are working for Russian welfare and been paid by foreign governments so the question is justify who tune are the NGO’s dancing too? Do they think governments will give there tax payers money freely without something in return?
(Sirko well said strong points)
- lmCorrect you are free mind50..13:52, 11/07/2012They are after Russia and mean business of course just look at some CIS countries who are constantly raising there rental fees for Russia bases hoping that Russia just say no and leave so that these CIS countries can become an out post for foreign armies.
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