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Russia Defends 'Undesirable' Designation For U.S.-Funded Democracy Group

The Kremlin has defended its decision to designate a U.S.-funded pro-democracy group in Russia as "undesirable," paving the way for the group to be banned from Russia.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), funded largely by the U.S. Congress, was declared "undesirable" on July 28 under a law that Moscow says is needed to prevent foreign organizations from being used to undermine Russian security.

Critics say the law stifles civil society under President Vladimir Putin.

The prosecutors accused the NED of using "Russian commercial and nongovernmental organizations" to organize "political actions with the goal of influencing authorities' decision-making," delegitimizing local elections and "discrediting" the Russian armed forces.

The NED responded in a statement saying: "This law, as well as its predecessors, contravenes Russia's own constitution as well as numerous international laws and treaties. The true intent of these laws is to intimidate and isolate Russian citizens."

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 29 that "it would be wrong to say citizens' rights are violated."

"Banning the activities of one or more organizations won't mean that citizens' access to democracy groups is limited," he said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Reuters, and AP