Duma rejectes bill abolishing ‘foreign agents’

Duma rejects bill abolishing “foreign agents”


Moscow 11 November 2015

A draft law, changing the concept of “foreign agents” in legislation on NGOs, was introduced to the State Duma by deputy Dmitry Gudkov.

According to RAPSI (Russian agency for legal and judicial information), the State Duma Committee on the Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organisations recommended that the draft law to abolish the use of “foreign agents” be rejected. The law “on amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation relating to regulation of the activities of non-profit organisations”, the author of which is deputy Dmitry Gudkov (“A Just Russia”), was published on the State Duma website.

Representative of the State Duma committee, Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR), announced that “at this stage, I believe that such a status (“foreign agents”), which was introduced, demands clarification in its wording. But with regard to the proposal to abolish it entirely in the modern geopolitical situation, the fight with international terrorism, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) faction will abstain.” According to the first vice chairman of the committee, Mikhail Margelov, United Russia is also not in support of Gudkov’s proposal and intends to vote against the draft law.

Gudkov stated on his personal Facebook page that “the most interesting thing is that colleagues acknowledged that yes, this status doesn’t work as intended. On the current list of foreign agent organisations, those that are carrying out political activities account for, at best, less than a third. Those that are left include the Dynasty foundation, a variety of environmentalists, human rights activists and even my favourite recent example, a photoclub.”

Omsk city public organisation Photoclub ‘Co-existence’ was named a “foreign agent” in October 2015. The Ministry of Justice considered their festival of modern art entitled “Space of Plurality” to be a “political activity”.

Parliament highlighted that even if we assume that there is something “political” within the activities of such NGOs, we are not able to find out any concrete details. “The Ministry of Justice makes just a brief statement; it has been said that they attempted to influence decision making by government authorities and change public opinion. Of course, even a morning performance in kindergarten is trying to change public opinion as it explains that there is no need to be greedy and evil. But the Ministry of Justice doesn’t offer any explanations,” said Gudkov.

According to the deputy, it is most likely that his draft law will be rejected definitively. “Arguments? Yes, everything didn’t go quite as I’d wanted but now the presidential committee is already working, investigating,” he said. The first meeting of the working group on NGOs under the administration of the president took place in October 2015. At that meeting, the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration Vyacheslav Volodin stated that the question of clarifying the meaning of “political activities” in the law on “foreign agents” will be resolved before the end of the year.

Author: Grigory Ivanushkin


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