06MOSCOW802, A/S LOWENKRON DISCUSSES NGO LAW WITH STATE DUMA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW802 2006-01-27 07:34 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3925
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0802/01 0270734
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 270734Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9833
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000802 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM RS
SUBJECT: A/S LOWENKRON DISCUSSES NGO LAW WITH STATE DUMA 
DEPUTY ANDREY MAKAROV 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk 
Augustine.  Reasons: 1.4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY. On January 18 DRL A/S Barry Lowenkron and EUR 
DAS David Kramer met with State Duma Deputy Andrey Makarov. 
Makarov vigorously )- and at times heatedly )- defended the 
new NGO legislation, insisting that the text met 
international legal standards, but he conceded there could be 
problems with its implementation.  Makarov explained the 
reasoning behind the various objectives of the law and 
described the evolution of changes dealing with taxation, 
registration, and termination of NGOs. END SUMMARY. 
. 
Basis for New NGO Law 
---------------------- 
 
2. (C) During a January 18 meeting with State Duma Deputy 
Andrey Makarov, A/S Lowenkron said he understood Makarov was 
one of the architects of the NGO bill and that he would like 
to learn about plans for its implementation.  Lowenkron 
commented that the law troubled NGOs because the climate in 
which they were working had become more difficult in the past 
several years, and many activists were afraid it might become 
even worse following the adoption of the legislation. 
 
3. (C) Quoting the famous 19th century Russian writer 
Saltykov-Shchedrin's comment that the cruelty of Russian laws 
was compensated for by their loose administration,  Makarov 
said that one of the reasons for his involvement was to make 
the law less cruel while strengthening its administration. 
He said he was greatly concerned when he saw the first draft 
proposed by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).  He stressed that 
the heads of several Duma committees, many from the liberal 
wing of United Russia, had joined him in reworking the MOJ 
draft; in other words, he said, the law had not been crafted 
only by hardliners. 
 
4. (C) Makarov said he had also become involved because he 
wanted to amend the original law to prevent it from becoming 
an additional "bludgeon" in the hands of law enforcement 
agencies.  Makarov said he gave four major interviews last 
year in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Duma's Budget 
and Taxation Committee ) long before the bill was adopted ) 
in which he expressed fears that law enforcement agencies 
were trying to gain power in Russia.  He thought they were a 
major force in the Russian economy and were trying to become 
a political force as well.  Makarov explained that an NGO law 
with explicitly stringent parameters would actually protect 
NGOs from overreaching law enforcement agencies. 
 
5. (C) Citing his experience during the anti-Yeltsin coup in 
1993, Makarov mentioned that he had been fifth on the list of 
coup opponents marked for termination if it had succeeded. 
Insisting that he believed strongly that the democratic path 
was the only option for him, he saw the new NGO law as 
another step along that path. 
 
6. (C) Makarov stressed that he could not see any grounds for 
concern with the final, amended law.  He had heard only two 
specific complaints during his meetings with foreign and 
Russian NGOs, as well as with the American Chamber of 
Commerce.  The first was that much of the language for 
closing an NGO had been taken verbatim from a UN resolution 
ensuring state sovereignty.  He explained that NGOs had 
requested changes in terminology to better reflect NGO 
experiences, rather than to focus on state sovereignty.  The 
second concern was about implementation.  Makarov 
emphatically insisted that the new legislation was a marked 
improvement over the previous law, and that the real issue 
was not its text but subsequent GOR actions. 
. 
Taxation and Accounting Issues under New NGO Law 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
7. (C) Makarov noted that tax laws dealing with NGOs were 
amended six months ago. Previously, NGOs were exempt from 
taxes only if their financial sources of income were included 
on a list approved by the government.  Under the new law, 
NGOs are exempt if their financing is derived from charitable 
sources that conform with the law.  Both foreign and Russian 
NGOs had to pay income taxes on their employees' salaries, as 
well as social security payroll taxes.  If an NGO is involved 
in revenue-generating activities in Russia, it had to report 
such income based on standard tax procedures. 
 
8. (C) Makarov explained that under the old law, tax 
authorities were responsible for registering and monitoring 
NGOs, but they were now only responsible for tax issues.  In 
addition, previously, tax authorities could monitor funding 
only from Russian sources; they had no power to regulate 
funding derived from foreign sources.  Under the new law, an 
 
MOSCOW 00000802  002 OF 003 
 
 
NGO has to declare the amount, purpose, and end recipients of 
foreign financial support. 
 
9. (C) Under the new legislation, Makarov noted, NGOs could 
be audited only once a year, and the only focus of the audit 
was to determine whether the funds were actually spent o
n the 
organization's stated purposes.  In this respect, he argued 
that Moscow was mainly interested in the transparency of 
financial flows, in particular to Islamic officials and NGOs 
in the North Caucasus and Southern Russia.  Many radical 
organizations were registered as NGOs, but there had been no 
provision in the old law allowing authorities to close an 
organization for laundering money or financing terrorism.  It 
was possible to jail individual offenders but not close the 
organization, he noted.  Lowenkron underscored that there 
were possibly better, more efficient means to close down 
sources of extremist financing, such as through the work of 
law enforcement and intelligence agencies.  Makarov replied 
that each country dealt with extremists as it determined 
appropriate, while observing treaties and agreements. 
 
10. (C) Makarov said only 110,000 of the 160,000 NGOs in 
Russia were registered with tax authorities, since the rest 
did not pay salary taxes.  Hence, one-third of NGOs were off 
the state revenue radar.  He asked rhetorically whether the 
U.S. would tolerate such a situation and explained that the 
new law would help tax collection in addition to monitoring 
NGOs. 
. 
Registration and Termination of NGO Activity 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
11. (C) Makarov explained that a provision removed from the 
first draft would have allowed the Federal Registration 
Service (FRS) to deny registration if an NGO's leader was 
involved in "improper activities"; under the final version, 
all such decisions had to be referred to a court for final 
determination.  In addition, the law did not allow the FRS to 
deny registration on the basis of "expediency"; the FRS was 
not allowed to evaluate an NGO's usefulness based on its 
activities.  In this sense, Makarov argued, the new law 
limited the ability of bureaucrats to act in an arbitrary 
manner. 
 
12. (C) Also, under the new legislation, NGOs will be 
required to submit registration documents according to a 
comprehensive, finite list outlined in the law.  The old 
practice of bureaucrats indefinitely stalling registration by 
demanding more and more documents would be eliminated. 
Documents would be filed only with the FRS, whereas 
previously, at least four other agencies (e.g., tax 
authorities, FSB, MVD, and the MOJ) might have been involved 
in registration.  If the FRS had any questions about 
documents, he said it was allowed to ask an NGO to clarify 
them.  Denials of registration could be appealed in court. 
 
13. (C) Makarov asserted that the original law contained no 
provision for closing down an NGO if it was involved in money 
laundering or extremist financing, but the new legislation 
included such a provision.  Any other grounds to close an NGO 
had Qbe determined by a court.  Makarov added that only a 
court ruling enabled an NGO to be shut down based on 
activities deemed "counter to the interests of Russia." 
. 
Concerns over Implementation 
---------------------------- 
 
14. (C) Lowenkron pressed Makarov on such issues as the 
vagueness of the guidelines, burdensome reporting 
requirements, and potential for abuse.  Makarov conceded that 
problems could arise with implementation, but he argued that 
any new or significantly amended law faced similar 
challenges.  He said the previous law, which was adopted 
twelve years ago, was seriously outdated and had to be 
amended to reflect changes in civil society.  For example, 
Makarov explained that the laws regulating political parties 
and trade unions (passed several years later than the NGO 
law) gave detailed procedures for creating such 
organizations, but there was no legislative basis for 
registering or terminating an NGO until the current law was 
passed. 
 
15. (C) Insisting that he respected human rights activists' 
opinions, Makarov stated that their "hysterical appeals" to 
the rest of the world and the world's excessive reaction 
would only provoke a negative reaction from Russia and a 
further tightening of the screws.  Makarov insisted that 
Moscow was doing its best to maintain a democratic climate to 
the extent possible, but it was not an easy task.  Any 
attempt to pressure the country, including in the area of 
NGOs, would likely backfire.  He said Russia still suffered 
 
MOSCOW 00000802  003 OF 003 
 
 
from "great power syndrome" ) it liked to learn new things 
but hated to be told what to do or how to do it. 
 
16. (C) Makarov concluded by observing that NGOs had become a 
political card in the hands of players who could use it for 
purposes that were "somewhat murky."  He maintained that he 
was prepared to discuss the law line by line and compare it 
with the original version in order to prove that it was much 
more democratic.  He emphasized that any biased or unfair 
criticism only served to divert attention from other 
important issues, adding that some forces in the country 
found it convenient to divert our attention from these 
important issues. 
 
17. (U) A/S Lowenkron has cleared this message. 
BURNS

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