Russian parliament gives first approval to NGO bill
Russia’s parliament has given initial backing to a bill requiring non-governmental organisations engaging in political activity and receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents”.
That phrase would have to be included in all the relevant NGOs’ materials.
The Kremlin says the bill is needed to protect Russia from outside attempts to influence internal politics.
But critics say the authorities are using the law to try to crush dissent.
Under the bill, foreign-funded NGOs involved in politics will also have to undergo financial audits and issue twice-yearly reports on their activities.
Failure to comply will be punishable by heavy fines or even a two-year prison sentence.
On Friday, the bill passed with a vote of 323 to four, with one abstention.
To become law it still requires two more readings and then the approval of the upper house (Federation Council) and President Vladimir Putin’s signature.
The head of the presidential council for human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, had asked for the Duma debate to be postponed, saying there should first be a full-scale public discussion on the bill.
Pictured: Russia’s leaders say the bill is necessary to protect the country from outside influence