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Putin Says NGO Bill Won't Harm Civil Society

Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo) (epa) 24 November 2005 -- President Vladimir Putin has said that parliament's recent moves to tighten controls over nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will not damage Russia's civil society.

The Russian president vowed to talk to leaders in the Duma and make sure civil society groups are not harmed.

The Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, gave its preliminary approval yesterday to a draft law aimed at tightening state control of NGOs operating in Russia.

Putin, who had met earlier with a top human rights adviser, also said that foreign financing of political activities needs monitoring.

The bill particularly targets foreign-funded NGOs, which could be barred from operating directly in Russia.

NGO leaders fear the bill may be used to curb, or even shut down, organizations that the authorities disapprove of.