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Russian defence minister defends law on NGOs
RIA Novosti

Munich, 5 February: Russia needs nongovernmental organizations and civilian monitoring of all spheres of state activity, according to Russian Federation Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov.

"Nongovernmental organizations themselves are needed by us, Russians, first and foremost. We need civilian monitoring of all spheres of state activity, and the majority of nongovernmental organizations honestly perform important functions," Ivanov told a news conference on the results of the Munich security conference.

He believes the law on nongovernmental organization in Russia is more liberal than in many European countries.

"I have been asked many questions recently on the law on nongovernmental organizations and Senator John McCain (USA) also mentioned this critically at this forum," the minister said.

"To be honest, I have almost no doubt that neither he nor anyone else in this hall has read the text of this law," Ivanov said. In this connection, he thought it appropriate to quote a well-known saying from Soviet times: "I have not read Solzhenitsyn, of course, but I condemn him."

Ivanov said the draft law was compiled on the basis of European norms and underwent expert assessment in the European Commission. "The only purpose of the law is to regulate control of the use of funds received by nongovernmental organizations, including from abroad, for their declared aims," the minister noted.

"We have plenty of examples of organizations supposed to be financing aid for refugees in actual fact buying weapons for the money," the minister noted.

He said the new law "has nothing in common with the attempts to stifle the activity of nongovernmental organizations that are being imputed to us".

The minister also compared the situation of nongovernmental organizations in Russia and Europe, noting that Russia gives them tax breaks, while a number of European countries tax them at up to 20 per cent.