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Russian NGOs Want Putin To Explain Funding Claim

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Dozens of Russian NGOs are demanding that President Vladimir Putin prove his claim that some NGOs in Russia are receiving a combined $1 billion in foreign funding.

Putin made the accusation during an interview with Germany's ARD public television last week when justifying the need for a recent wave of much-criticized state inspections of hundreds of NGOs in Russia.

A letter to Putin signed by 56 leading NGOs in Russia, including rights group Memorial and election-monitoring group Golos, was made public on April 11.

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NGO leaders urged Putin to order authorities to publish a list of NGOs that received those foreign funds.

Under a law passed in November, NGOs operating in Russia are required to officially register as “foreign agents” if they receive financing from abroad.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, said on April 11 that Russian authorities are hampering the work of NGOs with the new restrictive law and the recent wave of inspections.

"I think it has a chilling effect actually," Muiznieks told a Moscow news conference. "This term, 'chilling effect', is often used in the Council of Europe with regard to the freedom of expression and restrictions on the freedom of expression. Here, I think, we can talk about a chilling effect on the freedom of association and the NGO work."

On April 9, the Russian Justice Ministry said it was taking the vote-monitoring group Golos to court for failing to register as a foreign agent.

Golos, which denies it has received foreign money since the law came into force, faces a fine of up to 500,000 roubles.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

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