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MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - A controversial new law obliging Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) financed from abroad and involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents” comes into force on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law in July. It has been criticized by Russian human rights organizations, who say it is just one of a slew of Kremlin-backed laws aimed at suppressing opposition to Putin's rule.
Under the new legislation, NGOs would also have to publish a biannual report on their activities and carry out an annual financial audit.
Failure to comply with the law could result in fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900).
Kremlin officials have repeatedly claimed that Washington is using NGOs in Russia as a cover to bring about political change. Putin once famously called Russian NGOs involved in politics "jackals."
Critics say the term “foreign agent” is a near synonym for “spy’ in Russian and would lead to the discreditation of human rights groups.
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. Not a single NGO has so far registered as a "foreign agent."
Russia’s Public Chamber refused to support the bill - which was also criticized by the Kremlin’s own rights council.
Kremlin human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov said in July the law would be "harmful for our international image."
Putin appeared to suggest he would review the law when he met with Kremlin human rights council members earlier this month.
The bill was proposed by United Russia lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin, the author of legislation passed this summer that sharply increased fines for violations of regulations governing protests.
Sidyakin defended the bill in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti earlier this year.
“I think the idea that ‘foreign agent’ means ‘spy’ is more of a hangover from the Soviet period in which our parents grew up,” he said.
“I don’t think younger generations see the expression this way," he added. "We should try to get over Cold War terminology. I believe there is nothing insulting in this term.”
Sidyakin denied that he was prompted by the Kremlin to propose the law, which he said was aimed at countering what he alleged were attempts by the United States to “affect Russian politics.”
Putin has frequently accused Washington of being behind the almost-year-long protests against his rule.
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- Mikhail1228The same NGO law as in the USA!!!21:42, 20/11/2012The Russian NGO law that the media is wailing about was written virtually verbatim from the US law. Some background supplied by the FEC: The goal of the 1966 US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was to "eliminate foreign intervention" in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitations on foreign governments and nationals. In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), giving the FEC jurisdiction over its enforcement and interpretation.According to the FEC, FECA "prohibits any foreign national or government from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals or governments violate the ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment."So I guess if the Russian law is draconian so is the US law it was based upon!
- canobsNGO,s and Golos06:31, 22/11/2012G.Soros spnsored NGO,s(21stcenturywire.com)and US ambassador McFaul financed and organized many Golos protests in last election of V.Putin
- arsanlupinGood point ... BUT01:51, 24/11/2012Mikhail brings up a valid point – the USA has a Foreign Agents Registration Act, and it was most recently amended in 1966. However, he misses a few little details – including the purpose of the law, the types of “foreign activity” it was aimed at, and the types of contributions involved. Canobs’ words, of course, are nothing but arrant nonsense.
First, we are discussing two completely different statutes. The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq. (FARA or the Act) is a disclosure statute aimed at "agents of foreign principals" (agents) as defined, who are engaged in covered activities, on behalf of their foreign principal(s). In 1966, FARA was significantly amended to focus on the integrity of the US Government decision-making process, and to emphasize agents seeking economic or political advantage for their clients in laws pending in American legislatures. In other words, lobbyists.
On the other side is the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq.; a disclosure statute aimed at contributions for federal election campaigns. It was amended in 1974 to place legal limits on the campaign contributions, and again in 1979 to allow parties to spend unlimited amounts of hard money on activities like increasing voter turnout and registration. The foreign national prohibition (§ 441e) does read
“It shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 304(f)(3)) (2 U.S.C. § 434(f)(3))
However, both sections B and C of § 441e make it plain that the object of the entire statute is to prohibit foreign intervention at the candidate level – NOT at the election level itself. In other words, foreign nationals can (and many have, just this year, in the US) participated in increasing voter turnout and registration, and with voter education. They simply cannot get involved in favor of any candidate, political party, or ballot initiative.
So: if the new “foreign agent” law is meant to curb foreign involvement in a particular candidacy or political party, then yes it’s modeling the American law. However, if it also prohibits foreign involvement in improving voter registration, turnout, or education, then no it’s nothing at all like the American law, and the NGO’s are correct in describing the law as aimed at painting pro-democracy and human rights advocates as enemies of the state. Because it’s a certainty: Russia needs all the foreign help it can get, in learning how democracy really works. Introduced to it for the first time in history only 20 years ago, Russia is constantly proving that it has very poor understanding of the realities of democracy.
That includes vandalism as a form of political dialogue.
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