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Moscow Rights Activist Says NGOs Misunderstood

Svetlana Gannushkina
Svetlana Gannushkina
* Correction appended

MOSCOW -- Well-known Russian rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina says the federal government is ignorant about the operations of human rights groups in the North Caucasus, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Gannushkina, of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Civic Assistance Committee, was reacting to reports that a Moscow court has charged Oleg Orlov, the head of the rights group Memorial, with defamation of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

She told RFE/RL that "the dangerous part of human rights work comes from the local governments, not outside organizations."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a meeting human rights activists on July 6 that he believes people need to be able "to send the government a signal" about the problems in the North Caucasus, often by going through NGOs.

But Putin warned that some NGOs in the North Caucasus are "supported by outside funds," hinting that they are being financed by political organizations abroad.

Gannushkina said such an accusation is not new. She added that activists do not follow orders from anyone, though she admitted that most of the funding for NGOs comes from foreign and private companies.

* A reference to Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a primary backer of Gannushkina's organization was removed.