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Russian NGOs Say New Bill Will Hurt Cancer Care, Environment, Businesses

The State Duma in session in Moscow on July 13, the day the assembly passed legislation that would further restrict the actions of the country's nongovernmental organizations.
The State Duma in session in Moscow on July 13, the day the assembly passed legislation that would further restrict the actions of the country's nongovernmental organizations.

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Russian Duma Passes Libel, NGO Bills

Russia's lower house of parliament has approved two controversial bills -- one that would impose tough new rules on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive foreign funding, and the other that reintroduces slander as a criminal offense.
By Kristina Gorelik and Daisy Sindelar
Civil society workers in Russia say a bill proposing new restrictions on the country's corps of nongovernmental organizations will have far-reaching consequences for ordinary citizens.

The bill, which seeks to increase bureaucratic burdens on local NGOs that receive foreign funding, was passed on July 13 by Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Russia has seen repeated attempts in the past decade to curb the activities of NGOs.

But many NGO workers say that this time around, the stakes are higher for ordinary Russians, who have gained a clearer sense of the important services their organizations provide.

Nyuta Federmesser is the president of the hospice charity Vera, which provides end-of-life care for elderly patients and enables the purchase of so-called "orphan drugs" for the treatment of uncommon diseases -- a concept that was virtually unheard of in Russia even a decade ago.

"It was lobbying -- and lobbying by NGOs specifically -- that led to laws being passed that allow the legal import of orphan drugs to treat rare diseases," Federmesser says. "Our foundation is currently lobbying very actively for changes to be made to legislation on the circulation of narcotic medications.

"Apparently our work is political, judging by [the NGO bill]," she continues. "And all along I thought it was simply aimed at improving quality of life for cancer patients and people who are sick and dying."

Kremlin Clampdown

After an emotional season of opposition protests, the Kremlin appears intent on clamping down on a wide spectrum of perceived critics -- including internationally funded NGOs that under the new legislation will be branded as "foreign agents."

Protesters rally on July 13 after the Duma passed legislation recriminalizing slander and libel, as well as a controversial information law that critics say could make it easier for authorities to censor websites.
Protesters rally on July 13 after the Duma passed legislation recriminalizing slander and libel, as well as a controversial information law that critics say could make it easier for authorities to censor websites.
The Duma also passed legislation recriminalizing slander and libel, as well as a controversial information law that critics say could make it easier for authorities to censor websites.

But as Russia's flourishing Internet community of activists and civic-minded citizens continues to grow, it is unclear if the Kremlin will be able to put the genie of public engagement back in the bottle.

Sergei Borisov heads the OPORA national organization of small and medium-sized businesses. He says Russia has already put down too many global roots to return to life as an isolated and autocratic state.

"We're already living in a global world," Borisov says. "We've opened the door to the [World Trade Organization], and soon we'll be a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe. We're working more and more closely with our foreign colleagues. So to make a watershed decision that isn't clearly spelled out and is open to a variety of interpretations is absolutely unreasonable. Why smear our civil society institutions like this?"

The NGO bill has yet to get the nod from the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

But few doubt the upper chamber will pass the bill or that the president, who earlier this week dismissed suggestions that the legislation required additional clarification, will hesitate before putting pen to paper.

'Panicky Fear'

Igor Chestin, the director of the World Wildlife Fund in Russia, says the rush to pass the legislation is the result of what he calls lawmakers' "panicky fear" of NGOs.

He says the bill was so hastily contrived that it even fails to anticipate the fact that even Russian-funded institutions may be branded with the "foreign agent" seal.

"The Russian Geographical Society, for example, receives money from Russian businesses that are registered offshore," Chestin says. "The Sochi 2014 [Olympic] organizing committee will also become a 'foreign agent.' So will the Hermitage Museum, whose foundation is actually headed by a foreigner. The list goes on and on. These are consequences that people simply haven't thought about -- probably because they're not very capable in such matters."

Chestin, whose organization has been at the vanguard of Russia's fledgling environmental protection movement, for now appears to be adopting a playful approach.

"We've decided to turn the phrase 'foreign agent' into a kind of mark of quality," he says. From now own, he explains, WWF's materials will be published with the disclaimer, "We're not crooks and thieves. We're foreign agents."

Written by Daisy Sindelar based on reporting by Kristina Gorelik

Daisy Sindelar

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by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 17, 2012 10:00
The "panicky fear" is one good explanation,
USSR had little resources to watch smart Fritz.
Considering the new Russian nazis self-insulation,
Hate non-Russians, they gotn't brains for observation,
But only technology. Than why Germanize Russ to Ritz?

On another hand, Russian bandit's squize is always a tool,
Despoty of Russian tyrants we know from medium school.
They can't allow freedom of speech and assembly walk,
As traditional Russian expansion and opression chock
Neighbors, more honest Russians and labour pool.

Much darker side - the limmitted bacteriologic wars
That Russia play all over the World - including USA.
Among relatives and friends deadly infection scores
After I came to USA , aproched by Russians nurses
Get pneumonia - die in hospitals - sepsis-like cases.

One unkle died and one of my mothers friends died,
Because few days before I overheared them saying
That I was right about something - finished by spies,
Playing CIA in USA hospitals networks, always lying.
I saved my mother number of years before she died.

During 2008, when an invasion in Georgia was holted,
I wrote for McCain and UN help, I was conterminated,
By whole operative teams from Beloruss, Russia and
Northern Osetia, and one Russian at my mother's bed.
Emergency room IV was fighting it few days, it still hurt.

Last few times they used USA agencies and hospitals
To threaten kill my mother if I deny them, manipulated
By my enemies. Finally they murder mother, 7-7-2012.
Strange combination - Bacteriological Russian murder
And lie to CIA, obtain help for Russia killing us for them.

It might be some preventive policy of Russia on NGOs,
Specially if staff the noses in cases, why people dying.
Why worry about Sochy, occupied by Russian spying,
They can always prove loyalty to Russia, genocidizing.

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