Russian NGO challenges 'foreign agent' law

Aug. 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM

MOSCOW, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Russian human rights leaders said they were challenging the wording of a law requiring non-governmental organizations to register as foreign agents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin backed legislation last year requiring civic organizations to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from abroad.

Russia's Kostroma Center for Civic Initiatives Support filed a challenge to the measure in the Constitutional Court, state news agency RIA Novosti reports. The organization was fined $9,000 and Executive Director Alexander Zamaryanov was fined $3,000 in May for violating the law.

The Kostroma Center said what constitutes "political activity" in the legislation is too vague and could open the door to sweeping constitutional rights violations.

Putin defended the move as part of a transparency initiative. His government has faced growing criticism for its repressive policies.

Human Rights Watch in July reported the Moscow office of the Movement for Human Rights was raided by Russian authorities. Human Rights Watch said Russian authorities injured seven staff members during a raid conducted because of an expired lease agreement.

RIA Novosti reports as many as 2,000 similar raids on Russian NGOs since Putin endorsed the legislation last year.

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