Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial bill that requires NGOs funded from abroad to register as "foreign agents." The law has aroused deep concern among human rights activists.
The Kremlin said President Putin signed the bill into law on Saturday after it was approved by both houses of the Russian parliament shortly before their summer breaks.
The new law has been widely criticized by human rights groups inside and outside Russia.
It forces non-governmental organizations engaging in "political activity" to register with the justice ministry as "foreign agents" and to hand in a report to authorities every three months.
Opposition groups say the law is designed to silence organizations critical of Putin's human rights record.
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Two other laws tightening controls on freedom of speech were also passed by the Russian upper house on Wednesday. One increases fines for slander and libel, and another makes it easier for web sites to be blocked.
Putin has defended the laws, telling the Interfax news agency that the state needed to protect itself against being destabilized by "destructive forces."
Criticism of the new legislation has come from many quarters, with the United Nations calling the laws a reversion to the practices of the Soviet era with regard to dissent and free speech.
The United States and other Western countries have also condemned the laws, with the US State department expressing "deep concern" about the new restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs. Moscow responded by accusing the US of "gross interference."
In another move widely seen as repressing dissent, Putin's party has already pushed through a law making unauthorized demonstrations punishable with huge fines.
tj/pfd (Reuters, dpa, AFP)