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Rights Group Assails Russian Bill Targeting Foreign Organizations

The human rights group Amnesty International has sharply criticized a Russian bill that would ban "undesirable foreign organizations."

The London-based rights group says the draft law, which has been approved in the first of three readings in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, was "another troubling sign of the authorities' vigorous measures to restrict any public space for criticism."

In a January 20 statement, Amnesty quoted the director of its Moscow office, Sergei Nikitin, as saying "ideas which threaten fundamental freedoms" were often "railroaded through the Duma," which is controlled by the ruling United Russia party.

Amnesty said the bill would target international organizations deemed to pose "a threat to the defense capacity and security of the state or to public order" or health.

President Vladimir Putin has made accusations that the West is seeking to weaken Russia a centerpiece of his rhetoric since he returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.

One of the bill's authors, Aleksandr Tarnavsky, told the Duma on January 20 the bill had been discussed with media outlets including RFE/RL, an assertion denied by RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic.

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    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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