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Rights Groups See Problems Emerging As Deadline For NGO Reports Expires

MOSCOW. April 15 (Interfax) - The deadline for submitting reports by nongovernmental organizations to the Federal Registration Service expired on April 15, and rights group fear many of the nongovernmental organizations will be closed down over reporting problems.

"It's nearly impossible to cope with the amount of paperwork that must be done, especially for small organizations," head of the Civil Assistance human rights committee Svetlana Gannushkina earlier told Interrax.

"All organizations without exception do something wrong. As we expected, whether inspectors are or are not aware of this, the reporting mechanism itself is becoming repressive," she said.

She said her organization had spent two weeks drawing up all the documents. "Reporting distracts nongovernmental organization's attention from their main tasks - charitable, humanitarian and human rights programs," Gannushkina said.

Moscow Helsinki Group Executive Director Nina Tagankina concurred.

"Even Moscow-based organization have encountered problems, to say nothing of regional ones," she told Interfax.

Russian nongovernmental organizations would feel a lot better if financial reports to be submitted to the Registration Service coincided with those submitted to the tax agencies, Tagankina said.

"Then we would not have to do the same work two and three times. We are required to provide figures which even tax services don't need. A skilled accountant has been busy drawing up a report for us for more than two weeks now. It is a terrible headache for him. You can imagine how others suffer. Regional organizations cannot cope with this workload," she said.

Tatyana Kasatkina, the executive director of the Memorial human rights center said some nongovernmental organization may have problems submitting reports by the April 15 deadline.

"Only large organization will manage to do so, in my opinion. We don't quite understand what small ones will do. They will have to perform an enormous amount of work. Problems persist. What will happen after April 15 we'll see. Perhaps, stumbling blocks will emerge," she said.

But the Federal Registration Service does not see any problems emerging.

"We expect the process to proceed quietly and the documents will be submitted on time, which is the most important thing. If questions arise, they will be dealt with on the way," the Service's highly-placed official earlier told Interfax.

"The new form of reporting will not be easy for some organizations. But there's nothing fatal in it and I wouldn't make a problem of it. We discussed reporting by nongovernmental organizations with the Public Chamber without any hysteria. If queries arise, we'll deal with them in a matter-of-fact way," he said.

Meanwhile, some foreign nongovernmental organizations encountered registration problems in autumn 2006.

Branches of foreign nongovernmental organizations were to submit applications for re-registration before October 18, 2006, as required by the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations. The organizations that failed to comply with the schedule were suspended on October 19.

An overwhelming majority of the foreign nongovernmental organizations were granted re-registration, among them the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Medicines Sans Frontieres and the Danish Refugee Council. But some organizations were forced to suspend activities for several weeks.