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Human Rights Watch: Russian NGO Bill 'Catastrophic'

Moscow demonstrators protesting the NGO bill on 23 December (RFE/RL) 28 December 2005 -- A U.S.-based rights group says a controversial Russian bill regulating nongovernmental organizations will be "catastrophic" for human rights protection in Russia.

Human Rights Watch said today the bill represented what it called an "unprecedented assault on the work of human rights groups."

The bill, which was approved yesterday by Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, makes NGOs subject to stricter registration procedures and gives the state the right to close them down.

The bill must still be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

Human Rights Watch's Holly Cartner urged leaders of the Group of 8 (G-8) industrialized countries to raise the issue with Putin when Russia takes over presidency of the group on 1 January.