Russian parliament targets international NGOs | News | DW | 13.07.2012
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Russian parliament targets international NGOs

Internationally funded NGOs can now be singled out as "foreign agents" in Russia, subjecting them to stricter state controls. The Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the controversial measure.

The Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, on Friday overwhelmingly gave its final approval to a law that will brand internationally funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as "foreign agents."

The Duma passed the legislation with the support of 374 lawmakers, with just three representatives voting against the law and one person abstaining from the vote. President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party has an absolute majority in the Russian parliament.

The legislation was voted on after its second and third parliamentary readings on Friday. It had already received preliminary approval after its first reading one week ago.

The Duma also passed a law that criminalizes libel and slander. Those offenses are now punishable by a 5 million ruble fine ($152,877, 125,317 euros). That legislation was passed 238 to 91, with Communist lawmakers staging a walkout.

Tighter controls

Under the law, internationally funded NGOs are required to register with authorities and are subject to strict control of their finances.

Supporters of the legislation argue that it aims to prevent foreign powers from influencing Russia's domestic politics. But critics argue that the law is designed to silence Russia's opposition movement, the largest of its kind since President Putin first came to power in 2000.

The organization GOLOS, which is funded by the US and EU, has claimed that the law is designed to curtail its activities. GOLOS made voting irregularities public during the December 2011 parliamentary elections, helping to trigger the current opposition movement.

slk/ng (AP, AFP, dpa)