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Russian Activists Protest Accusations In Spy Scandal

The fake hi-tech 'rock' at the center of the spying scandal that has rocked the Kremlin's relations both with Britain and Russian NGOs (file photo) (epa) 1 February 2006 -- Russian human rights activists today again protested recent accusations by the secret services that they had received funding from alleged spies working for the British embassy in Moscow.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, who chairs the Moscow Helsinki Group, called the accusations an "attack on civil society." She was speaking at a joint news conference in Moscow with other leading human rights activists.

Lev Ponomarev, director of the For Human Rights group, said the accusations were the "latest stage in mounting pressure on human rights organizations".

The accusations by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers were aired in a program on state-run television on 22 January. They followed the passage of a controversial law that severely restricts NGOs activities and financing.

At a press conference in the Kremlin on 31 January, President Vladimir Putin said Russia supports NGOs but does not want them to be run by "puppeteers from abroad."


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):
Real Audio Windows Media

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