On Eve of Enactment of Russian NGO Law: Activists Vow to Boycott

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November 19, 2012; Source: CBS News

Some civil society and human rights activists are vowing to ignore a Russian law that would require NGO’s with foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” The law, which is poised to take effect Wednesday, is seen as a tool to reduce the credibility of groups receiving money from outside the country.

This law is one of a number of what many see as dissent stifling legal measures implemented since Putin was re-elected in May. Many see them as a response in part to Putin’s view that other nations, including the United States, are helping to destabilize his government by promoting protests.

Golos is, according to this article, the country’s only independent vote monitoring group. It exposed widespread violations in the recent elections and it is one of those pledged to boycott the new law, but Liliya Shibanova who heads the group said even before the new law has been implemented her organization has already been subjected for months to tax checks. Shibanova revealed that officials have demanded personal data of all regional activists and other information unrelated to tax matters.

“Such questioning has been going on across the country,” said Shibanova. She added that she was concerned that authorities may make use of the information to force activists to make incriminating statements about Golos.

Oleg Orlov who heads another boycotting group said that the law would allow Russian authorities to carry out continuous audits and other investigations of groups that get money from abroad. He commented, “They don’t even need to close an organization, they can effectively paralyze it with endless checks.” –Ruth McCambridge