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From: Edward Lozansky (Lozansky@aol.com)
Date: Sun, 4 Dec 2005
Subject: Interview with Arkady Murashev

The following is a recent exchange between myself and Arkady Murashev, one of the leading pro-Western political activists from the Union of Right Forces. Mr. Murashev was once a member of the Russian parliament; in this capacity, he helped provide logistical support to many American organizations, including the Free Congress Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, American University in Moscow, and many others.

I am sending you this exchange with Arkady's permission.

Lozansky: Arkady, the new draft law on NGOs, which has just gone through the first reading in the Duma, raises some serious concerns not only among those directly involved in NGO activities in Russia but also among many others who are following the development of Russia's civil and democratic society. As well you know, I run an NGO in Moscow myself, and it is funded from abroad. Does it mean my group has to pack and leave?

Murashev: Not at all. This new law is not as bad as some people declare, or better say "scream." Here is my personal opinion on the matter; I hope it will clarify the situation.

(1) There is no strict obligation for NGOs to register. Moreover, the new law gives non-registered NGOs certain rights that are not provided for in the current laws. I see this as a positive development. (positive)

(2) Regarding the ban on direct foreign funding of NGOs involved in political activities. No such ban applies to charity, educational, cultural, etc. groups. To my knowledge, America does not allow foreign contributions to political parties either. (neutral)

(3) Submitting financial reports to the tax authorities. Doesnt the US have the same requirements? (neutral)

(4) Some NGOs will have to re-register. This is a big bureaucratic headache, and I treat it as a negative development. (negative)

(5) About a dozen NGOs, including the Moscow School for Political Studies, the Moscow branch of The Heritage Foundation, and some others under my direct and indirect management can continue accepting money from abroad. (positive).

(6) Your American University in Moscow not being registered in Russia, the new bill is a very positive development for you, since you will now have more rights than before. For example, you can even organize rallies, which only registered NGOs are currently allowed to do. (positive)

Lozansky: Thank you. I doubt I'd get involved in the rally business, but can I continue to fly the American flag over our building in downtown Moscow?

Murashev: Yes, you most certainly can. I also suggest you bring to Moscow a group of American experts who can explain to us what the rules for NGO activities in the United States are. I will put them in touch with Russian lawmakers to compare notes and exchange ideas. However, tell your American friends first to read this draft law carefully and try to understand it before crying Uncle. I sometimes get the feeling that Americans want us to be more democratic than themselves to be holier than the Pope, so to speak.

Lozansky: Thank you, Arkady. Thats exactly what I will do.

I would like to add my two cents to this exchange, though. There are two major NGOs operating in Moscow with US public money the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Their respective presidents are Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Both strongly advocate Russia's expulsion from G-8. Now, imagine, say, Vladimir Zhirinovsky establishing his office in Washington, DC with Russian state budget money and hiring a few American Bush-haters with handsome salaries to advocate US expulsion from the same G-8 or from NATO. Would the FBI, the IRS, Homeland Security, the American public, etc. look serenely at such a situation? Are there any experts in JRL virtual space reading these lines who can comment on this? Thank you.