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Duma Bill to Clamp Down on Non-Government Organizations

Published: December 26, 2012 (Issue # 1741)


MOSCOW Amid thepublic furor over theState Dumas proposed ban onU.S. adoptions, many seem tohave overlooked thefact that theso-called anti-Magnitsky act, which passed thelower house ofparliament onFriday, would also place harsh new restrictions onnon-governmental organizations.

Unlike theadoptions ban, thenew restrictions onU.S. funding forcertain groups havent sparked pickets outside theDuma, andtens ofthousands havent signed online petitions opposing them.

But human rights leaders say therules are afurther tightening ofthe screws oncivil society organizations, which have been pressed inrecent months bynew laws that expanded thedefinition oftreason andrequired certain groups toclassify themselves as foreign agents, which all major NGOs boycotted.

It feels like war has been declared, said Alexander Cherkasov, head ofthe Memorial human rights organization. Nobody sewed onthe yellow star. Thenew law, toextend themetaphor, says: Well shoot you even if youre not wearing ayellow star.

Theproposed rules would make it illegal forNGOs that receive funding fromU.S. citizens or organizations toparticipate inpolitical activities or otherwise threaten Russias national interests.

They would also ban Russian citizens who hold American passports frombeing members or leaders ofpolitical NGOs, including local branches ofinternational groups, which could see their assets seized forbreaking thelaw.

Civil society leaders worried that thebills vague language meant it could be used selectively.

Theres no established legal definition ofa threat against Russian interests, forinstance, therefore theanti-Magnitsky act is not alaw, concluded Transparency Internationals Yelena Panfilova.

Therestrictions onRussians who hold American passports seemed tobe aimed atveteran human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Panfilova said, referring tothe head ofthe Moscow Helsinki Group, Russias oldest human rights watchdog.

Alexeyeva, 85, was forced toemigrate fromthe Soviet Union in1977 andreceived U.S. citizenship in1982. She returned toRussia in1993 andreceived aRussian passport as well.

Last week, Irina Yarovaya, head ofthe Dumas Security Committee, lashed out atAlexeyeva byquestioning her loyalty ina statement carried onthe partys website.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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