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Russian Justice Ministry Seeking Closure Of Leading NGO

Police seize protesting demonstrating against a new bill on NGOs during a debate in the State Duma, 23 December 2005 (RFE/RL) MOSCOW, 27 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russian human rights activists say the Justice Ministry is seeking to close down one of Russia's biggest human rights associations, the Research Center for Human Rights.

The Federal Registration Service at the Justice Ministry says the Center has failed to provide information about its activities over for the past five years.

It has now filed a suit with a Moscow city court asking for the Center to be closed down.

The Research Center's director, Lyubov Vinogradova, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the Ministry's claims were groundless.

The Research Center for Human Rights was set up in 1992. It groups several human rights organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva

Lyudmila Alekseyeva

Lyudmila Alekseyeva (TASS)

THE END OF THE 'GOLDEN AGE' Moscow Helsinki Group founder and Chairwoman LYUDMILA ALEKSEYEVA spoke at an RFE/RL briefing in Washington, D.C., on October 26, discussing the difficulties facing Russian nongovernmental organizations. Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the DEMOS Center for Information and Research, also participated in the briefing.
According to Alekseyeva, who is a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the time in office of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is considered a "golden age" for Russian NGOs -- even though this is "not [because] Yeltsin was a strong democrat," but rather because "society was left to its own devices and we managed to build civil society" while the "power elites" struggled among themselves and ignored the lower strata. Alekseyeva said Russia has emerged from its economic crises under President Vladimir Putin, but there is "no division of power in Russia under the model of executive vertical controls," where regional governors, a "puppet parliament," and a judiciary "stripped" of independence are under the Kremlin's control. Nonetheless, according to Alekseyeva, Russia is "not returning to Soviet times," because "today the attacks are selective" and "there is now a civil society" to resist the pressure.
Alekseyeva expressed concern that "Western democratic states don't react to attacks on human rights." She said that "in Soviet times, we few dissidents felt enormous Western support." She called that support "our shield," which she said is now missing. The supporters of civil society feel "now abandoned by Western allies," Alekseyeva said.


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 90 minutes):
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