06MOSCOW2928, NGO LEGISLATION: VARYING EXPECTATIONS ABOUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW2928 2006-03-23 11:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9115
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2928/01 0821117
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231117Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2797
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 002928 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PINR RS
SUBJECT: NGO LEGISLATION:  VARYING EXPECTATIONS ABOUT 
IMPLEMENTATION 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 2132 
     B. MOSCOW 2446 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  The GOR continues to be opaque about 
implementation of its controversial new NGO legislation, 
which is to go into effect next month.  It has revealed 
almost nothing publicly about the legislation's implementing 
regulations, although one NGO contact told us he had seen 
draft reporting forms, which he described as ambiguous and 
intrusive.  FM Lavrov told the Ambassador that the GOR is 
aware that implementation will bear heavily on Russia's image 
abroad, and the independent NGO community continues to 
believe the GOR will not launch a harsh crackdown on NGOs, at 
least until after the G-8 Summit.  At the same time, the GOR 
sent what civil society activists see as a worrisome new 
signal when the Procuracy froze Open Russia Foundation's 
assets in connection with an investigation of charges of 
involvement in money laundering for Mikhail Khodorkovskiy. 
Although many observers do not expect the GOR to use the 
legislation for a full frontal attack on NGOs, they fear the 
Kremlin will use it to frighten most NGOs away from an 
oppositionist stance and exploit the ambiguities and new 
requirements in the legislation to eliminate those that seek 
to exercise political independence.  END SUMMARY 
. 
LITTLE NEWS ABOUT IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) Since its signature by President Putin on January 
10, the controversial new legislation has awaited preparation 
of implementing regulations, a process being led by the 
Justice Ministry (ref a).   According to the Interfax news 
agency, Putin said at a meeting with that ministry that 
enforcement of the legislation was among its "vital issues." 
He reportedly instructed that preparation of implementing 
regulations be guided by "constitutional provisions on the 
rights and freedom of an individual and citizen."  We have 
heard nothing further from the GOR about the process of 
preparing those regulations. 
 
3. (C) Yuriy Dzhibladze of the Center for the Development of 
Democracy and Human Rights told us March 15 that while he had 
no word on specific provisions in the regulations, he had 
recently seen draft versions of the reporting forms that NGOs 
would have to complete in order to register.  The Justice 
Ministry had sent those draft forms to other ministries a few 
weeks earlier for comment, Dzhibladze reported, and the 
Finance Ministry had confidentially sent them to some NGOs 
for assessment.  Dzhibladze said the draft forms he saw were 
ambiguous and intrusive, and would place a heavy burden on 
NGOs.  The forms, at least in their current draft, would 
require information on every event an NGO organized, 
including a participant list and details about financing and 
help from other organizations.  He and other civil society 
activists had sent a negative assessment back to the Finance 
Ministry, whose officials had said that they agreed but that 
they did not have the main decisionmaking role on the issue. 
Dzhibladze added that he had heard the Council of Europe 
might also have received the draft forms for comment. 
. 
GEARING UP FOR TROUBLE 
---------------------- 
 
4. (C) The Ambassador and others have continued to weigh in 
with our concerns about the legislation and its 
implementation.  The Ambassador raised the issue in a March 
14 meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, noting the 
potential impact on Russia's image abroad.  Lavrov 
acknowledged that he understood that point and said that 
expressing concern about implementation was a good course to 
pursue. He also agreed that the MFA might usefully work with 
the Ministry of Justice to organize a briefing for foreign 
NGO's and foundations after the new law goes into effect in 
April, to help explain procedures and make clear that the MFA 
will monitor implementation. 
 
5. (C) The Ambassador also raised our concern in a March 17 
meeting with Vladimir Potanin, Chair of the Public Chamber's 
Commission for Developing Charity, Mercy and Volunteering. 
Potanin noted that he was interested in learning more about 
the positive work done in other countries by foundations, and 
that demonstrating such benefits might ease some concerns 
about NGOs.  We also expressed concern March 22 to Vyacheslav 
Nikonov, Chair of the Chamber's Commission on International 
Cooperation and Public Diplomacy.  Acknowledging the concern, 
Nikonov said he planned to hold a Commission roundtable with 
foreign NGOs, probably in May, at which they could discuss 
their initial experience with the legislation.  Holding such 
a session would counter any charges that the GOR was not 
 
MOSCOW 00002928  002 OF 003 
 
 
listening to NGO complaints while also demonstrating the 
Public Chamber's interest in the issue, Nikonov added. 
 
6. (C) Civil society activists continue to express concern 
but take a wait-and-see attitude.
In a recent meeting with 
the Ambassador, Moscow Carnegie Center Senior Scholar Liliya 
Shevtsova said the Kremlin was unlikely to launch a major 
attack on independent NGOs at least until after the G-8 
Summit, and might not do so at all, instead pursuing an 
incremental approach against such organizations.  In a March 
20 visit by the Ambassador to the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) 
offices, MHG head Lyudmila Alekseyeva agreed that attacks on 
her organization might not begin in earnest until after the 
G-8 Summit and perhaps not until August.  Still, she 
predicted that when the legislation goes into effect, smaller 
regional NGOs would be the first to be targeted.  Another MHG 
staffer at the session added that problems already were 
mounting for regional NGOs, such as some in Nizhniy Novgorod 
which were losing the low rent they had long enjoyed from the 
regional government. 
 
7. (C) Many activists are also preparing their NGOs for the 
legislation's new requirements, recognizing that even a minor 
violation of those requirements will create a vulnerability 
that the Kremlin will likely exploit.  Ekho Moskvy chief 
editor Aleskey Venediktov told us March 23 that, just as the 
Kremlin had used minor technicalities to keep the Rodina 
party off the ballot in several regional elections earlier 
this month (ref b), it would be in a position to do the same 
with NGOs that fail to complete registration forms properly. 
Moscow Carnegie Center head Rose Goettemoeller told the 
Ambassador that she was keeping a close eye on how the 
legislation would be implemented while also ensuring her 
organization's tax documentation was in order.  The Moscow 
Helsinki Group's Alekseyeva told the Ambassador that she was 
briefing MHG's younger staffers on how to conduct themselves 
during investigations. 
 
8. (SBU) Shevtsova has argued for an effort to improve the 
image of foreign NGOs.  Along with New Eurasia Foundation 
head Andrey Kortunov and others, she is seeking to organize 
an event to highlight positive contributions by such NGOs to 
solving social, health and other problems, and is hoping to 
draw media attention to the event.  The Embassy is working 
with Shevtsova on the effort, and the Ambassador has urged 
other embassies to follow suit. 
. 
OPEN RUSSIA AS A TROUBLING DEVELOPMENT 
-------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) The civil society community was shaken by the 
Procuracy's March 16 announcement about the freezing of 
assets of the Open Russia Foundation in connection with an 
investigation of charges that the NGO was involved in money 
laundering for Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, its founder and chief 
sponsor.  On March 20, Open Russia announced it would suspend 
its operations.  Ekho Moskvy's Venediktov was among several 
observers who predicted to us that Open Russia was almost 
certain to close down permanently.  A UK emboff told us EU 
embassies would meet in the next few days to decide whether 
and how to voice their concern about Open Russia to the GOR. 
 
10. (C) Several interlocutors noted to us that the Open 
Russia case was not directly linked with the new legislation. 
 They saw it primarily as a further attack on Khodorkovskiy. 
Andrey Ryabov of the Institute of World Economy and 
International Relations added to us on March 22 that Open 
Russia had effectively reached out to mid-level elites in the 
provinces, and that the Presidential Administration had tried 
countering that by creating its own institution to train 
regional bureaucrats.  Most of those bureaucrats continued to 
work with Open Russia rather than the more vacuous 
Kremlin-affiliated institute, Ryabov continued, which may 
also help explain the Procuracy's action. 
 
11. (C) Even if the Open Russia case is not directly tied to 
the legislation, civil society activists see it as an 
alarming indicator of Kremlin intentions toward independent 
NGOs.  Ryabov told us the Kremlin saw Open Russia's 
effectiveness in encouraging independent thinking and 
organizational activism in the regions as a threat that had 
to be eliminated.  While the Khodorkovskiy factor made the 
Kremlin take a particularly harsh approach toward Open 
Russia, the thinking that motivated it would lead to 
sustained, if perhaps more nuanced, action against other 
elements of civil society once the legislation goes into 
effect. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
 
MOSCOW 00002928  003 OF 003 
 
 
12. (C) Few observers are surprised at the lack of public 
information about implementing regulations.  While continuing 
to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, they are preparing 
themselves for potentially stringent new requirements that 
they expect to be set out in the implementing regulations. 
Smaller NGOs feel particularly vulnerable, given their likely 
inability to field the kinds of resources that may be needed 
to fulfill the legislation's requirements.  Even the more 
established groups, however, worry, particularly given the 
ambiguity of the legislation and the Kremlin's proven ability 
to eliminate Rodina's participation in recent regional 
elections.  While seeing the latest attack on Open Russia as 
a bad sign, independent NGOs believe the Kremlin will not 
apply the legislation too heavy-handedly at least in the 
run-up to the G-8 Summit.  There is widespread concern about 
what will come thereafter, but many organizations are hopeful 
that they will continue to operate despite the added 
challenges.  We sense deep concern, but not resignation or 
despair. 
BURNS

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