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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW2132 2006-03-03 14:51 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #2132/01 0621451
P 031451Z MAR 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002132 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2016 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  A bit over a month before Russia's new NGO 
legislation goes into effect, most independent NGO activists 
are concerned about its implementation but retain a 
wait-and-see attitude.  In recent weeks, the government has 
initiated investigations against some independent NGOs, but 
it has also favorably resolved some troublesome cases.  We 
continue to reiterate our concerns about implementation to 
high-level interlocutors, many of whom acknowledge the 
validity of those concerns.  The broad expectation is that 
the Kremlin will hold off on launching a sweeping attack on 
independent civil society at least until after the G-8 
Summit, and perhaps thereafter.  The timing and harshness of 
its implementation are open to speculation, with the 
implementing regulations now being drafted also playing into 
the equation.  END SUMMARY 
2. (C) Signed by President Putin on January 10, the 
controversial new NGO legislation will go into effect on 
April 10.  Over the past few weeks, several contacts have 
told us, the Justice Ministry has proceeded with drafting 
implementing regulations, working in conjunction with other 
ministries and agencies.  That process has been opaque, 
however, with none of our contacts indicating they had any 
details about it. 
3. (C) Civil society activists have expressed to us their 
continued concerns about the legislation's potential impact. 
Sakharov Center Director Yuriy Samodurov told the Ambassador, 
who was visiting the Center on March 3, that the legislation 
was likely to make things harder for NGOs.  Offering his 
Center as an example, Samodurov said that it might be forced 
to clear planned exhibits in advance with the Justice 
Ministry, its affiliation with foreign nationals could cause 
problems, and Samodurov might be forced to resign as its 
director because of his March 2005 conviction for inciting 
religious hatred.  International Republican Institute Country 
Director Joe Johnson told us March 4 that there were 
indications, still unconfirmed, that the implementing 
regulations could impose new requirements that would further 
complicate his organization's work in Russia. 
4. (C) While there is widespread concern, however, many civil 
society activists acknowledge that they are unsure exactly 
how the legislation will be implemented.  Moscow Helsinki 
Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva told visiting EUR DAS David 
Kramer on February 21 that many activists are taking a 
wait-and-see attitude.  Alekseyeva believed it unlikely that 
the GOR would launch a major attack on a large NGO before the 
G-8 Summit, although it was possible this could occur after 
the Summit to send a warning to the rest of the independent 
civil society community.  For now, NGOs could only prepare 
themselves for whatever might transpire. 
5. (C) The period since the signing of the legislation has 
seen some incidents that have further chilled the atmosphere 
for independent NGOs.  The Moscow Procurator's office, for 
instance, recently warned Memorial that its publication of 
information on Hizb-ut-Tahrir's ideology may constitute 
promotion of Islamic extremism.  Memorial head Oleg Orlov 
called the warning a new effort to pressure civil society. 
A contact at Memorial told us on March 1 that the 
organization had taken the item off its website, at least 
temporarily, to avoid immediate problems, but was planning to 
take the case to court to get a ruling making clear that it 
could be restored to the website. 
6. (C) At the same time, the news has not been all bad.  The 
St. Petersburg Procuracy's decision to renew a tax case 
against the British Council had been widely seen as an effort 
to rein in NGOs.  A British emboff told us March 4, however, 
that following a meeting between FM Lavrov and British 
Foreign Secretary Straw, the GOR had given HMG the text of a 
cultural agreement that the British had long been requesting 
and that would resolve most of the British Council's problems. 
7. (C) The Ambassador and others have continued to underscore 
our concerns about implementation.  The Ambassador raised the 
issue March 3 with DFM Aleksandr Yakovenko.  Acknowledging 
that implementation was not directly within the MFA's 
purview, the Ambassador stressed that it would bear heavily 
MOSCOW 00002132  002 OF 002 
on Russia's image abroad.  The GOR might think ahead to 
meeting with NGOs and the media when the legislation takes 
effect, explaining its implications, in order to demonstrate 
transparency and a desire for cooperation.  Registering an 
NGO, such as the New Eurasia Foundation, could also show GOR 
goodwill, the Ambassador stressed.  Yakovenko agreed that 
doing so was w
orth considering and said he would pursue it 
with FM Lavrov. 
8. (C) The Ambassador reinforced our views in a March 2 
meeting with Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.  Saying 
that the legislation might prove "more useless than harmful," 
Lukin agreed that much depended on its implementation.  Some 
Kremlin officials wanted to apply the legislation harshly 
against independent NGOs, Lukin said, while others opposed 
that view.  Pointing to the legislation's vague definition of 
political activity as a troublesome element, Lukin said that 
if a narrow definition was applied, independent civil society 
would not be harmed.  Also troubling was that the legislation 
did not imply a presumption of innocence for NGOs, allowing 
bureaucrats to issue a ban on questionable grounds, which the 
NGO would have to challenge in court to regain registration. 
If the legislation were implemented in a positive way in the 
first six months after going into effect, however, that would 
set a good precedent, Lukin argued. 
9. (C) In conversations over the last few days with Duma 
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Konstantin Kosachev and 
Federation Council International Relations Committee Chair 
Mikhail Margelov, the Ambassador reiterated our concerns. 
Each said that the legislature would monitor implementation 
and take action if necessary.  The Ambassador made a similar 
point in another recent conversation with Ella Pamfilova, 
Chair of the Presidential Council for Assistance to 
Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human 
Rights, who said she would follow the implementation closely. 
 The Ambassador also noted to Russian G-8 Sherpa Shuvalov 
that flawed implementation of the legislation could harm 
Russia's image during the G-8 Summit.  Shuvalov acknowledged 
the point and added that President Putin was aware of that. 
Our UK Embassy interlocutor told us visiting HMG officials 
have also continued to raise their concerns with Russian 
officials.  Moscow Carnegie Center Director Rose Goetemoeller 
told the Ambassador on March 3 that she had also stressed 
concerns about implementation to GOR officials and had urged 
them to take constructive steps once the legislation goes 
into effect to ease the NGO community's fears. 
10. (C) In previous conversations, members of the Public 
Chamber have told us their body would play an important 
monitoring role.  Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy, a Chamber 
member, told us March 2 that he had been placed in charge of 
a working group to track implementation.  That working group 
planned to assess implementation for three months after the 
legislation goes into effect, at which point it would provide 
Chamber Secretary Yevgeniy Velikhov with a formal report.  If 
things were going badly, Ryakhovskiy said, he would press for 
the Chamber to urge amendments to the legislation.  Another 
Chamber member, Institute of Religion and Politics Director 
Aleksandr Ignatenko, told us March 1 that he had been among 
the signatories of an appeal to Putin not to sign the 
legislation before the Chamber could properly consider it, 
and that he and other signatories, though disappointed that 
their appeal had not been heeded, still intended to keep a 
close eye on implementation. 
11. (C) As noted reftel, the American Chamber of Commerce was 
considering organizing a roundtable for officials drafting 
the implementing legislation to highlight Western experience 
with NGO law.  AmCham Executive Director Andrew Somers told 
the Ambassador on March 2 that his organization intended to 
hold such a session shortly.  AmCham held a briefing for its 
NGO members on the legislation on February 7. 
12. (C) Civil society activists, though highly concerned with 
the new legislation, maintain a wait-and-see attitude.  Most 
are not totally resigned to its harsh implementation, 
although they acknowledge that that is a possibility.  There 
are many scenarios for how the situation will play out, and 
many observers do not expect a harsh application of the 
legislation as soon as it goes into effect, believing that if 
it will be applied vigorously, that would only be done after 
the G-8 Summit.  The timing and harshness of its 
implementation are open to speculation, and the nature of the 
implementing regulations now being drafted would also be a 
significant factor. 


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