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Russia's list of 'undesirable' NGOs fuels fears of crackdown

By Jared M. Feldschreiber
Soon after Vladimir Putin reassumed the presidency in 2012, he approved a law tightening controls on NGOs funded from abroad. File Photo by Luo Xiaoguang/Pool/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b6650fb4f585925e873660c4298c639d/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Soon after Vladimir Putin reassumed the presidency in 2012, he approved a law tightening controls on NGOs funded from abroad. File Photo by Luo Xiaoguang/Pool/UPI | License Photo

MOSCOW, July 9 (UPI) -- A list of "undesirable" civil rights organizations by the upper house of Russia's parliament is fueling perceptions of a crackdown on "foreign agents."

One non-governmental organization on the list, the Dynasty Foundation, which aided young and aspiring mathematicians and scientists, abruptly announced this week it was "liquidating its funds."

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Soon after Vladimir Putin reassumed the presidency in 2012, he approved a law tightening controls on NGOs funded from abroad, forcing any that engage in "political activity" to register as a "foreign agent" -- a Cold War term.

In recent weeks, the Russian parliament's upper chamber called on authorities to blacklist 12 NGOs, including the Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros' Open Society and the Ukrainian World Congress -- all deemed "undesirable."

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Putin signed the controversial bill into law in late May.

Dynasty's founder, Dmitry Zimin, who also started the mobile networking company Beeline, funded the foundation since its inception in 2002, with bank accounts that were kept abroad.

But this week, he announced the foundation's closing.

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Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that "no restrictions were placed on the Dynasty Fund. [The organization] could have continued its activity and we regret the fund's management decided to close it."

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Meanwhile, an American businessman working as a professor at a Russian university was fired, then rehired in another position.

Kendrick White, who was teaching as vice rector at Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod, was initially fired on June 30. The university said in a statement he was let go as part of a "restructuring of the management system."

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But White had been criticized on a daily program by Sputnik News head Dmitry Kiselyov as playing a "harmful" role in Russia. Russian authorities say they are concerned that some of the country's best students will be hired by some of the most prestigious institutions and centers abroad.

"How it happened that such a position could be held by a U.S. citizen, a businessman from Washington, is still not clear," Kiselyov said in a report on White's career, which included setting up one of the first training young Russian entrepreneurs.

White denied such accusations in an interview with Kommersant.

"We we recently went to the U.S. with a group of Nizhny Novgorod students; they showed their projects and came back, no one stayed in the States," White said. "I have neither the authority nor the possibility to take one out of the country. But it is not necessary – we are against the brain drain. We want Nizhny Novgorod to develop, so that other regions of Russia take up this example, as well."

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