MOSCOW, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Russian non-governmental organizations say the "British spy scandal" is a way for the Russian government to turn public opinion against NGOs it wants to close.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of Moscow Helsinki Group, said the Federal Security Service's claim that 12 organizations received funds from alleged British spies is part of a government campaign against its critics.
She also said the campaign is linked to a law tightening control over NGOs which President Vladimir Putin signed this month, the BBC reported.
"They are preparing public opinion for a government move to close us down, which they can now do under the new law," she told reporters.
Yuri Dzhibladze, head of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, said authorities could shut down an organization that received a grant authorized by a foreign spy under diplomatic cover if one of two conditions were met: if the authorities proved the NGO knew the diplomat was a spy, or if they proved the NGO divulged state secrets in exchange for the money, The Moscow Times reported Wednesday.
Izvestia on Tuesday quoted an FSB spokesman as saying, "We haven't dealt much with NGOs so far, but now they will be an object of close attention."