Russia's Civic Groups May Face New Rules

Is it the latest example of President Vladimir V. Putin's efforts to centralize power and neutralize opposition? That's how critics are interpreting a controversial new law to regulate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which is due for a key second vote in Russia's Parliament on Dec. 9. The law would affect some 450,000 civic groups, requiring them to reregister with Russian authorities and operate only as local legal entities. Many warn that they may have to close. "It de facto bans affiliate offices and representative offices of foreign charities and NGOs, and it imposes much stricter control over domestic groups," says Alexander Petrov, director of the Moscow office of New York's Human Rights Watch. Russia moved to curb nonprofits after accusing them of backing opposition revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.

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