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Putin says he's ready to review foreign NGO law

13 November 2012, 09:56

Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said he is prepared to reexamine a contentious law that brands as "foreign agents" non-governmental groups that receive international financing.

Putin in July signed into law the measure requiring NGOs receiving foreign cash to register with authorities and be subject to official checks of their income, accounting and management structure.

The law has caused huge concern among activists who fear it will be used to stigmatise critical groups. The label "foreign agent" in Russian carries negative connotations of unpatriotic behaviour.

According to Russian news agencies, Putin backed a proposal from the Kremlin's new human rights council to review the law.

"I think that anything that is not tied to politics must be excluded from the law's scope," Putin said.

Ecological groups and rights groups should therefore not be covered by the law, he said.

He nonetheless insisted that all foreign influence in Russian affairs was "unacceptable".

"We must not allow anyone from overseas influence (domestic politics) in a sneaky way through financial means. We must know who these people are," he said.

Separately, Putin urged the State Duma lower house not to rush through a bill clamping down on offenses against religious believers.

The bill was introduced following the criminal case against punk rockers Pussy Riot. Two of the group's members were sentenced to two years in a prison camp after performing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral.

A third member of the group was released on appeal with a suspended sentence.

Opposition figures and activists have denounced a string of new laws, including one broadening the definition of espionage and treason, and another that increases penalties for incidents that occur during demonstrations.

After Putin's return to the Kremlin in May, several human rights workers have quit the Kremlin's advisory human rights council, complaining the president would not work with them.

- AFP

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