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#22 - JRL 9312 - JRL Home
Date: Sat, 03 Dec 2005 17:55:23 -0800
Subject: The NGO debate
From: Misha & Elena Tsypkin <tsypkin@sbcglobal.net>

Dear David,

I have translated, for the benefit of JRL readers, several items related to the debate on the proposed amendments to the law dealing with NGOs in Russia.

1) Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation A. V. Yakovenko, addressing a conference on the role of civic institutions in national security, at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, on December 1, 2005.

Speaking about foreign financing of NGOs in Russia, Amb. Yakovenko remarked: One should note that this situation results in an inadequate and sometimes completely distorted perception abroad of the Russian public opinion, primarily on issues of foreign policy. This is not surprising: the foreign and Russian mass media constantly cite opinions and judgments of well financed Russian branches of foreign NGOs, presenting them as a reflection of our public opinion. Then false conclusions are drawn about a gap between the public opinion and Russian government when it comes to foreign affairs. I am convinced that this situation requires an urgent correction.


2) On November 30, 2005, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at the presentation of a new Russian NGO, the International League for the Defense of Human Dignity and Security. This organization has been created by the Russian Association of Heroes, a group of veterans decorated by the medal of Hero of the Soviet Union and/or Hero of Russia, and the Order of Glory.

Minister Lavrov said: Huge moral authority and experience of prominent public figures, diplomats and military officers [members of the League] will allow the League to play an active role in a search for ways of prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts. In our diplomatic work we feel sharply the shortage of Russian NGOs interested in international affairs. The MFA of RF is ready to help the League in all ways possible, including finding partners among international humanitarian and other NGOs and foundations

The president of the new League is General Valentin Varennikov, one of the most prominent instigators and executors of the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev, currently a member of the Rodina (Motherland) faction in the Duma. (Motherland was barred from Moscow city government elections on December because of its rabidly racist TV commercial; in January 2005, one of the members of the Motherlands Duma faction circulated a letter accusing Jews, among other things, of ritual murder.)

[http://www.rian.ru/politics/russia/20051130/42270740-print.html; http://www.ln.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/sps/0CF0A764BA61825FC32570CA00507938]

3) On November 21, 2005, the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation Amb. Vladimir Lukin wrote to Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation that he [Lukin] cannot support [the amendments to the laws dealing with NGOs] since the concept of the draft law contains additional limitations on human rights and is actually directed at eliminating the right to form associations, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and is supported by federal laws The Human Rights Ombudsman recommended that the draft law be returned to a Duma committee, and that a broad discussion of the draft law be organized, with the participation of the Ombudsman, the Civic Chamber, etc.


4) And here is one more document from the Ombudsmans office:

Today, November 23, 2005, at 11:10 am, the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation received by fax the following text signed by the Chairman of the State Duma: This is to inform you that today, November 23, 2005, at 11:30 am, a plenary session of the State Duma will discuss the draft Federal Law No. 233364-4 On Introducing Amendments to Certain Federal Laws of the Russian Federation.

It is not clear from the text whether the Ombudsman is invited to take part in the discussion or to be present during the discussion.

Information about the meeting [transmitted] 20 minutes before its start suggests that it is the latter.

Then Amb. Lukin mentions his communication to the chairman of the Duma cited earlier, where he proposed a broad discussion of the amendment. Further, the Ombudsman concludes:

The actual refusal to conduct such a discussion and the obvious rush to push through the current version of the draft law leaves one perplexed.


5) According to news reports, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, whose members are confirmed by the President of the Russian Federation, have appealed to the Duma postpone the second reading of the given draft law [dealing with NGOs] until the Civic Chambers membership is not complete.