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Russian NGOs, Rights Groups Ordered To Submit Documents

Lilia Shibanova: "This is all being done to complicate...our work."
Lilia Shibanova: "This is all being done to complicate...our work."
Some 20 Russian human rights organizations and nongovernmental organizations have been ordered to submit various financial and internal documents to Moscow's Prosecutor-General's Office, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's branch of Transparency International, and Voice, a group that defends voters' rights, announced on September 14 that they had been called the previous day by the Prosecutor-General's Office and asked to submit various documents to local prosecutor's offices by noon on September 14.

They said they were not told why the office needed the documents.

Voice leader Lilia Shibanova told RFE/RL she thinks the move is part of the government's preparation for the 2012 presidential election. She said that "initially they asked for financial and founding documents."

Shibanova said that as she understands the situation, the local prosecutor's office is only an intermediary and all of the documents from the organizations will be transfered to the city prosecutor's office by September 15.

"I think this is all being done to complicate not just our work, but the work of all human rights organizations," she said.

Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva told RFE/RL that when she called the prosecutor's office to clarify why they needed these documents, she was told "the [office is] carrying out an investigation with regard to the war against terrorism and extremism."

Alekseyeva suspects the investigation concerns last week's deadly explosion at a market in Vladikavkaz.

She says she has inquired with Moscow's human rights ombudsman, Aleksandr Muzikantsky, as to the legality of this action against the organizations and how they can protect themselves against illegal searches.

Yelena Panfilova, the director of the Russian branch of Transparency International, told RFE/RL that they, too, were asked to submit a wide range of documents.

"We were shocked by the time frame with which we were supposed to submit documents," she said. "We received a fax that we must submit these documents at around 10 or 11 a.m. and told to submit the documents [the same day] by 12."

Panfilova said her organization "is physically unable to fulfill such a request."

The Moscow prosecutor-general's press office has not given a reason for the investigation.