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Putin Got It


On Thursday the Russian president Vladimir Putin had a meeting with human rights activists and promised to deprive them of funding from other countries. The human rights activists did not object to that, but in interviews with Gazeta.Ru they explained that they did not understand the sense of the presidents words very well.

On Wednesday an unprecedented event took place in the Kremlin. For the first time in the history of this organ, President Vladimir Putin summoned the State Council to assist in the development of institutes that devote themselves to civil society and to human rights. Human rights activists were invited to the Ekaterinburg hall in the Kremlin, where a big round table stands. Formerly, the president gathered the oligarchs here. Presents were prepared for the guests. At first, Putin congratulated the most famous Russian human rights activist, the woman in charge of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseeva, in honor of her birthday. He wished her success and gave her the traditional bouquet of scarlet roses. After this, he went on to somewhat bigger presents.

In his opening address, Putin declared that NGOs soon will be able to count on state funding.

Putin reminded that in Russia there are about 600,000 organizations of this kind. Today we can think about mechanisms of support, and in particular talk about the possibilities of how to use these organizations and instruments as social competition and funds, Putin said. The only thing that worries me is that from your side there could be doubts that this is some form of bribery by the state.

He explained that financial support from the state should not be seen as bribery, but something different. Yes, it is a form of dependency, the president said. He reminded those present that successful sportsmen and theaters already depend on the state in this way.

The human rights activist, Aleksandr Auzan, who took part in this meeting, innocently complained about the bureaucracy of laws which especially regulate international aid for NGOs. Putin reacted with a bit of suspicion towards Auzans question.

I think I dont understand something here, Putin said, looking at the human rights activist more closely. When the president understood, that the matter concerns money from abroad, he made a very important statement.

We are against overseas funding for the political activities [of NGOs] in Russia. I categorically object, he briskly said. "Not a single state that respects itself does that, and we won't allow it either," he threatened. The president remarked that he knows certain facts about funding of this kind.

Money from abroad is allocated for concrete political activities in Russia, in very sensitive areas, Putin said without any explanation of what he had in mind. However, since, according to his words, he who pays the piper calls the tune, there has to be a difficult struggle with these issues.

Lets solve our internal political issues ourselves. We dont live in a primitive society, he suggested the human rights activists. In what way NGOs will be prevented from receiving foreign money was not made clear by Putins words. It is interesting that Putin not only disliked political, but also ecological activities of non-commercial organizations. As Putin thinks, the greens are only an instrument in the battlefield of competition. Whenever we start doing something, one of the lines of attack against us is always based on ecological problems, Putin complained.

The human rights activists did not really understand the sense of Putins words. For the leader of a country, this is a normal statement, that political parties should not be funded from abroad, Lyudmila Alekseeva told Gazeta.Ru. The question is how he defines political activity. When human rights groups defend the right of citizens to vote, to assemble or to demonstrate, is this political activity or not? she said. According to her words, in a civilized country this isnt seen as political activity. The leader of the movement For Human Rights, Lev Ponomarev, told Gazeta.Ru that funds from abroad amount to 95% of the budget of human rights organizations. Businessmen contribute only 5%. If Putin only has in mind funding of political parties from abroad, then this is truly intolerable. I suspect, however, that this is really about human rights organizations, whose activities in the eyes of these authorities have political character, this human rights activist added.

If the situation is like this, such a measure would lead to the destruction of Russias civil society, and Putin will be its grave-digger. The western countries will also see it like this, this human rights activist affirmed.

He called to mind the fact that Russian human rights activists often put forward political claims. For example, they demanded the discharge of the Secretary of the Interior of Bashkiria after a cleansing among peaceful citizens in Blagoveshenks and protested against the substitution of social benefits with payment.

Putin had in mind that it is necessary to control all money from abroad that is intended for particularly political goals. Obviously, the idea is that parties and other political organizations must not get money from abroad. This is quite clear, Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, who took part in a meeting of political scientists, explained to Gazeta.Ru. Whether there are any parties in Russia who receive money from abroad, he found difficult to say.

[22.07.2005]

Source: gazeta.ru

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