Russian red tape for foreign NGOs

Mathew Little

The Russian government has brought in a law that puts heavy restrictions on foreign NGOs and charities.

CAF Russia is preparing guidelines to help international NGOs in Russia, such as Oxfam, the Prince of Wales Business Leaders' Forum and Amnesty, to comply with the new rules.

The new law will force international organisations to report their activities to the authorities once every three months and reveal details of any funding they give to Russian NGOs.

State officials have also been given the right to stop foreign NGOs' programmes if they threaten national interests.

President Vladimir Putin said that the new law was needed to combat terrorism and stop foreign spies using NGOs as cover.

Maria Chertok, director of CAF Russia, described the new requirements as "severe".

"The law puts NGOs under much greater control," she said. "The government has the right to shut down certain programmes run by foreign NGOs because it doesn't like them. Everything really depends on how the new law will be executed. Every NGO will make certain mistakes in reporting - if this is used to close them down it will be a major restriction."

But Chertok added that the government department responsible for regulating NGOs had admitted it would not be able to monitor the paperwork generated by the new law.

"NGOs definitely feel demotivated," she added.

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