Report to State Duma on activities of “foreign agents”
The Justice Ministry has submitted a report to the State Duma on the issue of “foreign agents”. In particular, it lists examples of “political activities” undertaken by NGOs, how much “foreign agents” have been fined, as well as reiterating its request to the Duma for Ministry access to private banking and tax information. According to Ministry figures, “foreign agents” received 950,000,000 roubles from foreign sources during 2015. Vedomosti reported that in the same year, 53 NGOs were fined 12,600,000 roubles for failing to register voluntarily on the “foreign agents” list. Another 10 NGOs were fined a total of 5,250,000 for infringing labelling standards for material distributed by “foreign agents”. All this is included in the Ministry’s report to the Duma on how the “foreign agents” law is being implemented.
The Ministry’s last report stated that Russian NGOs had been fined over 3,000,000 roubles during 2014. That same year, it carried out 6,982 individual NGO audits, 621 of which were unannounced. 4,953 breaches of the law were identified as a result.
In 2015, the Ministry referred to “political activity” as action aimed particularly at “discrediting domestic and foreign policy and Government decisions, as well as changes to the law in areas such as international relations, urban policy and regulation of Internet activity”. Criticism of the “foreign agents” law is also regarded by the Ministry as a “political act”.
On 17 May, the Duma will debate the Second Reading of the Bill to clarify the meaning of “political activity”. The text approved at First Reading stage drew criticism from the whole NGO community, as well as concerns from charities. Amendments are being prepared for the Second Reading which are designed to remove the possibility of organisations engaged in charitable work being classed as “foreign agents”.
In presenting its report to the Duma, the Ministry has once again asked for existing legislation to be amended in order for them to have access to private tax and banking details, as it claims credit and financial institutions are currently refusing to provide them with information relating to the movement of money within NGO accounts.
The Ministry has also complained of difficulties encountered in obtaining evidence to establish whether Russian legal entities are receiving financial support from foreign sources and using some of the money to make donations to “foreign agents”. The Ministry has therefore asked MPs to allow it to request such data from Russian legal entities and to receive the relevant information via the Federal Fiscal Monitoring Service.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin http://www.asi.org.ru/news/126608/