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Russian Lawmakers Propose Broadening Controversial 'Foreign Agent' Law


Graffiti at the Moscow offices of the human rights group Memorial, saying "Foreign agent." (file photo)

Russian lawmakers are asking authorities to consider broadening the country's controversial "foreign agent" law to include nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from Russian citizens with foreign income sources.

The proposal was floated in Russia's upper chamber of parliament, which is dominated by the ruling United Russia party, during a June 7 hearing on alleged foreign "interference" that featured heated denunciations of the West by top officials.

It comes amid escalating warnings by officials in Moscow that Western governments are seeking to sow discord in Russia ahead of the March 2018 presidential election, which is expected to hand President Vladimir Putin a fourth term.

If enacted, the proposal would broaden the criteria under which NGOs could be deemed a "foreign agent" under a 2013 law impacting organizations that receive funding from abroad and are deemed to be engaged in political activity.

Under the current law, such funding is applicable only if it is from foreign governments, organizations, or citizens.

The new proposal would broaden those financing sources to include Russian citizens who receive money or assets from foreign governments, organizations, or citizens.

Lawmakers on June 7 recommended that Russian state financial regulators and law-enforcement authorities examine the proposal.

Russian and international human rights organizations say the 2013 law was introduced to silence independent voices.

Kremlin opponents say authorities are trying to further tighten control over dissenting voices and the political landscape ahead of the March 2018 presidential election.

Based on reporting by rbc.ru, Interfax, RIA Novosti, and TASS
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