Putin notes big drop in number of “foreign agent” NGOs

Kremlin and River

(Interfax – October 30, 2017)

The number of Russian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered as foreign agents has nearly halved over the past year, President Vladimir Putin has said.

“Currently the number of such organisations in the register of foreign agents has almost halved. Their number dropped from 165 to 89. This is only 0.39 per cent of the total number of NGOs registered in the Russian Federation,” Putin said at a meeting with members of the Presidential Human Rights Council in Moscow on 30 October, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Besides, the number of “foreign agent” NGOs included in the state register in 2017 is four times less than that in 2016, Putin added. He attributed the decrease to the change in the stance of NGOs, noting that in order to be removed from the register an NGO must either end its political activities or give up foreign funding.

“NGOs have been quite actively choosing the second option, especially since favourable conditions have been created not to look for money abroad to fund political activities but to receive financing in Russia,” Putin said.

According to him, R22bn (about 38m dollars) have been allocated to Russian NGOs over the past five years within the programme of presidential grants alone.

In 2012, Russia passed a law that requires Russian NGOs who receive funding from abroad and “engage in political activity” to register with the Justice Ministry as foreign agents. The label carries very strong negative connotations. Advocates of the law say it is necessary to prevent foreign-funded meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs. Its critics, however, see it as an instrument to stigmatise NGOs and crack down on civil society.