Federation Council approves law on ‘political activity’
139 senators have voted to accept amendments to the “foreign agents” law.
The Bill aimed at clarifying the meaning of “political activity” under the “foreign agents” law has been approved by the Russian Federation Council. The decision to adopt the law was almost unanimous, with 139 out of 140 senators voting in favour (the other having abstained).
The Bill’s Second and Third Readings were endorsed by the State Duma on 20 May. The text approved at First Reading had been widely criticised by the whole NGO community, as well as raising concerns from charities. Following a series of discussions, the Parliamentary Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organisations gave its support to an amendment that ruled out the possibility of organisations engaged in charitable work being classed as “foreign agents”.
It is impossible to completely ignore the issue of “judicial discretion” when determining whether an organisation is engaged in political activity, said a senator, Andrey Klishas, as reported by TASS. He stated that “there is a general recognition among organisations involved in charity and social work that these are acceptable amendments, although we would like to see how they will be implemented in practice”.
The existing version of the Bill on “political activity” will only preserve the status quo Ekaterina Chistyakova, President of the Give Life charity, had earlier stated on her personal Facebook page. She stated that the existing version of the “foreign agents” Bill still allowed the possibility of practically any charity being classed as a foreign agent, but that a “gate” had been left open for socially orientated NGOs not to be regarded as “agents”.
“The text of the amendments approved at First Reading included the following approximate wording: “Verily I say unto you that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an NGO to escape being included on the “foreign agents” register.” Of course, we think a gate is gentler than the eye of a needle as it is more flexible and has more room for manoeuvre. Thanks to the intervention from Yaroslav Nilov MP, the gate has been successfully retained within the Bill. This is good news. Of course, replacing a wicket gate with a larger gate or perhaps an entire road would have been even better”, said Chistyakova.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin