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Parliament resolution censures secret service links with NGOs

MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's lower chamber of parliament adopted a draft resolution Wednesday, condemning the involvement of foreign secret services with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.

The document, adopted by 401 votes against six with five abstentions, expressed concerns that foreigners involved in espionage in Russia - specifically "some employees of the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" - had been funding NGOs operating in the country.

The State Duma's move came in response to a spy scandal that broke after Russian state television broadcast a program on Sunday night suggesting that British embassy officials were engaged in espionage in Moscow. The Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's domestic security agency, identified four British agents who were allegedly operating in the Russian capital under diplomatic cover and said it had seized a high-tech British spying device for contacting agents.

The FSB said the discovery was linked to NGOs financing in the country.

"Such actions undermine trust in NGOs as a universally recognized institute of civil society," the parliament said in the resolution, urging parliaments in Europe to condemn cooperation between secret services and NGOs.

The parliament said it was unacceptable to use NGOs for purposes that clashed with the humanitarian and socially beneficial objectives of such organizations.

However, the Duma praised the wide-ranging and pro-active discussion of Russia's NGO bill in foreign state and international institutions, which had helped parliament draw up and adopt a law in line with international practice of regulating the work of NGOs.

The Duma recently adopted amendments to the bill, which set out registration requirements for NGOs and non-profit organizations. The final version of the law does not allow the registration body to exercise financial control over non-profit organizations, and allows NGOs to appeal decisions to shut them down in a court of law, as well filing applications with the Justice Ministry, the government and other agencies.

"This law will definitely be conducive to higher trust in NGOs working on Russian territory," the parliament said in its resolution.

The amendments to the NGO bill came after it had stirred up harsh criticism from the West, which said the bill would hamper the activities of foreign NGOs, including humanitarian and rights groups, in Russia. Russian officials argued control over foreign NGOs in Western countries was much more stringent.