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Russia says election watchdog must register as 'foreign agent'

By MARCELLA KREITER   |   June 21, 2013 at 9:55 AM

MOSCOW, June 21 (UPI) -- Election monitoring group Golos must register as a "foreign agent" even though it says it does not get any foreign funds, Russian officials said Friday.

The independent organization says it has not received money from outside Russia since November 2012, when a new law went into effect governing non-governmental organizations such as Golos, RIA Novosti reported.

The law requires all NGOs in Russia to register as "foreign agents" if they receive any funds from foreign sources and engage in political activities.

Golos was fined about $9,200 in April for failing to register even though it maintains it has not received funding from outside Russia since the end of last year.

The justice ministry said Golos continued to receive money from abroad after that date. In a statement, the ministry said the association "has to get registered as a non-governmental organization functioning as a 'foreign agent.'"

The law has been criticized internationally because Russians equate the term "foreign agent" with spying and anti-government activity. It has already been applied to organizations conducting non-political work such wildlife conservation and public health.

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