[Marxism] They should have done this 15 years ago when it mattered

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 24 14:26:19 MST 2005

NY Times, November 24, 2005
Putin Defends Russia's Right to Regulate Private Groups

MOSCOW, Nov. 24 - President Vladimir V. Putin today defended Russia's right 
to scrutinize any political activity by foreign and domestic charities and 
nongovernmental organizations, even as he promised that "civil society in 
Russia should not suffer."

Making his first public remarks on an issue that has caused a furor at home 
and abroad, Mr. Putin said he would consult with parliamentary leaders on 
new legislation that would place all private organizations under strict 
state control and threaten others with closure.

At the same time, however, he expressed strong support for a core aim of 
the legislation, setting up a confrontation with the United States and 
Europe over programs intended to create political pluralism and to promote 
democratic change in Russia.

"The continuing financing of the political activity from abroad should be, 
I think, in the state's field of vision," he said in remarks broadcast on 
state television, "especially if this financing is carried out through the 
state channels of other countries and these or those organizations 
functioning in our country and involved in the political activity are, in 
fact, used as a tool of the foreign policy of other states."

Mr. Putin spoke a day after the lower house of the Russian Parliament voted 
overwhelmingly to give preliminary approval to the legislation, which would 
force 450,000 private organizations to register under tighter rules next 
year. Representatives of the organizations said the legislation would place 
a burden on all organizations and give the authorities new powers to shut 
down those considered insufficiently loyal to the Kremlin.

The draft now being considered would force foreign organizations - 
including some of the world's most prominent human rights and environmental 
organizations - to close their offices and seek to reregister as purely 
Russian organizations, also under new controls over their activities.

Officials in Washington have expressed concern about the legislation, but 
stopped short of publicly demanding that Russia back down. Mr. Putin, 
meeting with his adviser on human rights and civil society, suggested in 
his remarks that amendments would be considered, but he did not elaborate 
on what provisions of the legislation, if any, would be significantly revised.

In 2004, the United States donated $45 million to groups in Russian that 
promote democracy and civil liberties - money that the United States State 
Department's said was intended to address "Russia's inconsistent transition 
toward a democratic system." If interpreted strictly, as many here fear it 
would be, the legislation would prohibit Russian organizations from 
accepting such grants.

Even some of Mr. Putin's advisers have publicly complained the legislation 
goes too far. Still it was passed on Wednesday by a vote of 370 to 18. Ella 
A. Pamfilova, Mr. Putin's adviser on human rights, said she requested the 
meeting with the president to discuss the legislation's most restrictive 

In a telephone interview after today's meeting, she said that the president 
had promised to address her concerns as the legislative process proceeds. 
The lower house of Parliament must vote two more times before sending the 
legislation to the upper house and ultimately to Mr. Putin. A second vote 
is now scheduled for Dec. 9.

"The president was concerned by the quality of the document and stressed 
not a single of provisions of the law should violate either our 
constitution or international law," she said. "He also said it was 
inadmissible if the work of civil organizations is damaged."

The legislation's critics, however, said the Kremlin was intent on cracking 
down on one of the last parts of Russia society not already under state 
control. They cited the Kremlin's fear of foreign and domestic support that 
could lead to political upheaval like that that toppled Ukraine's 
autocratic government after fraudulent elections a year ago.

"One hundred percent of N.G.O.'s in Russia will be under the control of the 
government," Vladimir A. Ryzhkov, an independent parliamentary deputy who 
voted against the legislation, said in a telephone interview after the 
vote. "It is one more authoritarian step by the authoritarian regime."

Nikolai Khalip contributed reporting for this article.

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