Two prominent Russian human rights organizations -- the Moscow Helsinki Group and Memorial
-- are boycotting an NGO Congress in Penza, Russia, in protest.
The three-day congress, which began today, is organized by the Council of Europe and the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told RFE/RL's Russian Service
that more than 50 NGOs from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine have refused to take part in the congress.
Alekseyeva said it was a mistake for the Russian parliament to be chosen as an organizer for the Congress because it refused to register some NGOs that wanted to attend.
Alekseyeva added that the Moscow Helsinki Group does not recognize the Penza congress and will inform the Council of Europe that it intends to organize an alternative congress of regional NGOs in 2009.