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U.S. 'Concerned' By Russia's Anti-NGO Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

The United States says it is "concerned" by a new Russian law banning what it calls "undesirable" NGOs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation on May 23 that gives state prosecutors the right to blacklist foreign organizations operating in Russia for "posing a threat to Russia's defense capabilities, security, public order, [or] public health."

U.S. State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington is troubled that "this new power will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia" and yet another example of the Kremlin's "growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world."

The legislation -- which was passed by both houses of Russia’s parliament earlier this week -- also allows Individuals who work for such organizations in Russia to be slapped with hefty fines or handed prison sentences of up to six years.

Under the law, the decision to deem a foreign organization undesirable must be coordinated with Russia’s Foreign Ministry on the basis of materials and documents obtained from the Interior Ministry and security agencies.

The Justice Ministry would be tasked with compiling the "blacklist."

Human rights watchdogs have denounced the legislation.

In a joint statement last week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said it would “bolster an ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society.”

The law on undesirable organizations "puts those who don't fall under the ‘foreign agents’ law on a knife edge," veteran Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva has said.

The Kremlin's own human rights ombudsman has opposed the legislation, which became law after Putin repeated on March 26 his accusation that Western secret services use NGOs to "destabilize Russia."

In 2012, Russia passed legislation allowing authorities to define nongovernmental environmental groups receiving foreign funding as "foreign agents."

With reporting by AP, TASS, and Interfax

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