Today (6 July) the first reading is taking place in the Duma of a bill to introduce new and substantial restrictions on NGOs in Russia. The Coordinator of German-Russian Intersocietal Cooperation, Dr Andreas Schockenhoff MP, has issued the following statement in this connection:
“The planned amendments to the Non-Commercial Organizations Act are aimed at discrediting Russia’s independent and critical non-governmental organizations and making their work more difficult.
With the recent drastic restrictions on freedom of assembly, this is the second severe blow against civil society in Russia in the space of a few weeks.
The planned special register for “politically active” non-governmental organizations that receive financial support from abroad and their stigmatization as “foreign agents” sends the wrong kind of message to Russia’s engaged citizens as well as its partners abroad.
The bill under consideration in the Duma increases doubts about the Government’s willingness to conduct a dialogue and work with civil society in Russia. The new restrictions also put at risk the modernization partnerships both Germany and the EU have agreed with Russia. For Germany this is particularly the case, given our extraordinarily dense network of ties with Russian civil society, as exemplified by the Petersburg dialogue for intersocietal understanding.
The strong Russia to which President Putin aspires needs strong partners – notably in Russian society, but also abroad.
I appeal to the Duma not to impose even more restrictions on the activities of civil society in Russia. Engaged citizens are not enemies of the state but partners in its drive to modernize the country!”