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Russia's Federation Council Okays NGO Bill

MOSCOW. Dec 27 (Interfax) - The Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, voted 153-1, with one abstention, on Tuesday to approve the country's new bill on non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The bill proposes amendments to the Civil Code, the Law on Closed Administrative-Territorial Entities, the Law on Public Organizations, and the Law on Non-Profit Organizations.

The document provides registration guidelines for Russian and foreign NGOs and contains a list of documents needed for registration. The bill also suggests appointing the Federal Registration Service as the country's registration body for foreign NGOs, which currently have to apply to the Foreign Ministry for registration.

At the same time, foreign NGOs which are not Russian legal entities can retain their current status. Foreign organizations do not need to seek re-registration, but they must notify the registration service of their activities no later than six months after the NGO bill comes into force. The bill is due to take effect 90 days after its official publication.

However, the Federal Registration Service has no right to check the financial activities of such organizations, but can ask tax bodies, fiscal organizations or law enforcement agencies to carry out such checks. One of the amendments introduced to the bill orders "a structural division of a foreign NGO to inform an authorized body of the amounts of funds it receives and the way it disburses or spends them."

The bill also requires foreign NGOs to submit documents confirming that funds allocated for specific programs have been received by Russian private individuals and legal entities.

In addition, the bill bans NGOs, including foreign organizations, from operating in closed administrative-territorial entities.

If an NGO is denied registration, it can appeal the decision in court. An NGO can be denied state registration "if its proclaimed goals run counter to the Constitution and legislation of the Russian Federation, or pose a threat to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, national unity, cultural heritage and national interests of the Russian Federation."

The bill allows the Federal Registration Service to order a check of an NGO only once a year.