HRW says the amended bill still does not preclude the closure of foreign humanitarian NGO branches in Russia. In this context HRW asked for the G8 Group, of which Russia assumes the chairmanship on January 1, to raise the issue with Moscow during the upcoming summits and other meetings.
The human rights watchers note that though some of the provisions of the bill have been softened as compared to the original version, foreign NGOs operating on Russian soil are still obliged to notify the registration authority of their projects ahead of the upcoming year and the funds allotted for each specific project.
As a result, points out HRW, it would be up to the bureaucracy to decide which projects or their parts comply with Russia's national interests and which do not. In the event of an "imported" NGO still persisting in a project rejected by the state authorities, its branches in Russia may be closed, bridles HRW at the bill.
As has been reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin had pointed out, and with good reason, that legislative restrictions on foreign NGO activity are needed to prevent the funding of political activity from abroad. It's an open secret that practically after each "color revolution" on post-Soviet territory US government officials sooner or later admitted that the US had funded the events through NGOs.
In connection with the Russian leader's statement and the allegedly vague definition of "political activity" in the bill, HRW expressed its fears that the term might be interpreted by government officials too broadly.
Sharp criticism was also leveled against the Russian bill at the beginning of December by US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice. At a joint press conference with Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko she expressed hope that the Russian government realized the need for non-governmental organizations to maintain "a stable democratic climate".
Later on, commenting on C. Rice's statement, US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli emphasized that the US authorities would continue to discuss the NGO bill with Russia urging it on to move "in a positive direction". The diplomat explained that by the "positive direction" he meant the observance of freedoms and providing Russian citizens with a possibility of acting for the benefit of the common good".
However, the US officials' words do not quite agree with the actual US policies on the matter inside the US itself. The fact is that US secret services exercise a strict control over NGO activities inside the country. Under the pretext of preventing terrorism, the FBI closely watches the activities of the various American NGOs and their activists.
Just on the eve of the discussion of the NGO bill in Russian parliament the "American Civil Liberties Union" made public documents demonstrating that the FBI had been watching some 150 NGOs, including anti-war and civil liberties groups.
Notably, the surveillance over NGOs and their activists, as well as keeping files on them, had been conducted by US secret services long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. To top it, the FBI and the US Department of Justice maintain that "close monitoring of the activities of some NGOs is legitimate" and "justified from the viewpoint of assuring the internal security of the country".
After the attack on the "twin towers" the US secret services only redoubled their control of the activities of public and political organizations.