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Prosecutors claim some Russian NGOs violate ‘Foreign Agents law’

Prosecutors claim some Russian NGOs violate ‘Foreign Agents law’
A senior Russian law enforcer has told the press that some Russian non-government organizations are receiving their funding from abroad, but failed to register as foreign agents. He warned these organizations could face sanctions in the future.

The current situation is as follows: the finances keep coming from abroad, but no organization is registered,” First Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Buksman said on Thursday.

He added that the current large-scale inspections in various Russian NGOs would most likely influence the situation and the first registered foreign agents would appear.

The official also noted that the inspections were not over yet, but NGOs, mass media and even some foreign countries already accused the law enforcers of biasness. Buksman emphasized that the work was planned six months ahead and prosecutors were simply doing their jobs when they launched probes into the NGOs’ activities.

Also on Thursday, US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul spoke at a roundtable dedicated to most urgent issues of cooperation in the field of non-governmental activities and other political activism.

The diplomat expressed hope that the large-scale inspections of NGOs would not lead to a crisis in Russian-US relations, but noted that his country was concerned about the development.

However, when the ambassador faced a question about why the bypassing of Russian laws was being discussed at a state level, he replied that this was a problem of Russia and Russian laws with which the Russian authorities have to deal.

In late March this year Russian prosecutors, investigators and taxmen launched a large-scale audit of all Russian NGOs, including the branches of international majors such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International.

The activists labeled the probes as pressure and warned that they could lead to significant decrease of NGO activities in Russia. US, German and French diplomats, as well as foreign media, also expressed concern over the situation.

A White House representative said that the US would find ways to bypass the restrictions and would continue to fund the Russian groups using foreign-based platforms.

Russian law enforcers and Foreign Ministry replied with statements that the probes were absolutely lawful and their plan had been drafted long ahead.

The ministry also blasted the US promise of funding as “direct instigating of certain non-governmental and public structures to violate legislation related to the work of non-governmental organizations in the Russian Federation."

Last year Russia introduced the Foreign Agents law, which requires all groups that receive foreign funding to register with this status. Sponsors of the act claim that it defends the interests of Russian voters who would be better informed about the sources of income of certain politically-active NGOs.

Many activists claim that the law threatens the very existence of their groups and some publicly announced that they did not intend to comply with the law’s demands.