06MOSCOW5372, IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NGO LAW: SO FAR, MUCH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5372 2006-05-19 13:29 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0913
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #5372/01 1391329
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191329Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6178
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 005372 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2016 
TAGS: PROG PREL PINR RS
SUBJECT: IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NGO LAW:  SO FAR, MUCH 
UNCERTAINTY 
 
REF: MOSCOW 2132 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  In the month since Russia's controversial 
new NGO legislation formally went into effect, there has been 
widespread uncertainty about how to comply with it and about 
its long-term impact.  Though implementing regulations have 
been issued, they fail to address many practical questions. 
The Justice Ministry reportedly is preparing explanatory 
notes, and some Federal Registration Service (FRS) officials 
indicate they are open to meeting with NGOs to discuss 
compliance.  Some major U.S.-based NGOs see reason for hope 
that the law will not adversely affect them.  Many 
independent Russian NGO activists are less sanguine, fearing 
the law's massive bureaucratic requirements and the GOR's 
ability to apply them selectively.  Kremlin officials have 
told the Ambassador that no major drive is in the works to 
shut down independent NGOs; he has reiterated to them our 
concerns about implementation and urged maximum transparency 
and minimum impact on NGO activities.  While the law remains 
highly worrisome, it is not clear that a worst-case scenario 
will play out.  We will continue to underscore -- ideally, in 
unison with other governments -- our concern for fair and 
transparent application of the law, and will need to avoid 
having a counterproductive "Made in the U.S.A." stamp 
attached to efforts to monitor implementation.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
UNCERTAINTY ABOUNDS 
------------------- 
 
2. (C) The controversial amendments to NGO legislation 
(reftel and previous) formally went into effect on April 18, 
and the period since then has been dominated by uncertainty 
and confusion.  The Justice Ministry has issued implementing 
regulations along with almost one hundred pages of forms for 
NGOs to complete for various aspects of compliance. 
Meanwhile, the FRS has begun hiring new staff to carry out 
the law.  AmCham deputy director for policy Tatyana Raguzina 
told the Ambassador, in a May 15 meeting with major 
U.S.-based NGOs working in Russia, that the deputy director 
of the FRS office in charge of NGOs had told her the previous 
day that his agency had hired some one thousand new 
employees, although he gave no reason to believe that hiring 
would continue to proceed apace.  (By many accounts, the FRS 
aims to hire a total of six thousand new employees to 
implement the law.)  That official also told Raguzina that 
training had begun for regional FRS officials.  If the 
official voiced optimism about his agency's workplan, he also 
acknowledged that his office was still ill-prepared to begin 
the task of implementing the NGO law, telling her that, in 
the tiny office he currently shares with a skeleton staff, he 
was likely to be overwhelmed by paperwork for the foreseeable 
future. 
 
3. (C) Although the implementing regulations are extensive, 
they fail to address many practical questions about 
compliance.  At the May 15 meeting with the Ambassador, for 
instance, NDI country director Mary O'Hagan said she was 
uncertain what constituted a "reportable" meeting or event 
under the terms of the law.  Many activists have told us they 
are uncertain what level of detail they will have to provide 
to comply with the law.  American Jewish Joint Distribution 
Committee (JDC) country director Sam Amiel, for instance, 
told us that while his organization had not been directly 
affected by the new law, many of the NGOs that receive JDC 
funding are confused about how to proceed, which is weakening 
their effectiveness.  In earlier meetings, activists had told 
us they were stymied in their attempts to get responses to 
their questions about the law from what they described as a 
disorganized FRS, although some are now getting some 
information.  According to Raguzina, her FRS interlocutor 
said he would be happy to meet with AmCham members to explain 
procedures, and such a meeting has been tentatively set for 
next week. 
 
4. (C) Public Chamber member Sergey Ryakhovskiy, who tracks 
the NGO law, is among several people who have told us 
recently that the Justice Ministry is now preparing 
explanatory notes to supplement the implementing regulations. 
 At the May 15 meeting with the Ambassador, Moscow Carnegie 
Center Director Rose Goettemoeller speculated that the GOR 
was slow to complete those notes because of infighting over 
bureaucratic turf.  Goettemoeller said she was concerned that 
NGOs could be caught in the cross-fire of such infighting, 
which she believed had also led to delays in producing the 
implementing regulations. 
 
5. (C) Aside from specific issues of compliance, broader 
questions persist.  At the meeting with the Ambassador, for 
instance, Raguzina said she believed that registering with 
 
MOSCOW 00005372  002 OF 004 
 
 
the FRS would be sufficient to meet all NGO registration 
requirements, whereas Ford Foundation country director Steve 
Solnick argued that registering with tax authorities and 
others was still required.  Similar questions continue to 
swirl throughout the NGO community as lawyer
s and activists 
work their way through the law and implementing regulations 
and seek clarification from the FRS. 
. 
DIFFERING EXPECTATIONS 
---------------------- 
 
6. (C) Some Western NGOs see reason to hope that the law will 
not adversely affect them.  At the meeting with the 
Ambassador, Solnick said that, at least for large and 
well-staffed organizations like his, the law might not prove 
damaging.  Well before the new legislation went into effect, 
Ford had been dealing with major bureaucratic burdens, and 
its accountants felt the new requirements were manageable. 
Solnick also believed that because the FRS would be 
overwhelmed with paperwork, it would be less prone to go 
after organizations like his.  Nonetheless, he acknowledged 
that the law created potential new threats.  Although 
Raguzina said she had been assured by FRS officials that it 
would not punish NGOs that erred in completing some of the 
newly required forms, AmCham Executive Director Andrew Somers 
noted that an organization could be shut down under the law 
for twice submitting incorrectly completed documentation. 
 
7. (C) Meanwhile, the implementing regulations have 
reinforced concerns that many independent Russian NGOs have 
long been voicing.  Some activists, including Yuriy 
Dzhibladze of the Center for the Development of Democracy and 
Human Rights, have told us they had been able to influence 
the drafting process to eliminate some of the most damaging 
regulations.  Nonetheless, the sheer number of forms to be 
completed and the level of detail that appears to be required 
constitute a major source of alarm.  Civil society activists 
such as Open Russia's Irina Yasina have told us that even 
sizable organizations like hers will need to hire new staff 
to meet the reporting requirements.  Smaller organizations, 
including those in the regions, may lack the funds to add new 
staff members, forcing them to find creative solutions, 
self-censor or risk closure.  Michael Harvey of ACDI/VOCA 
echoed that theme, noting that some of the forms appear to 
require completion in ink or on a typewriter, rather than by 
computer, further increasing the burden.  Yelena Topoleva of 
the Agency for Social Information told us the forms were 
prepared without consulting with the NGO community or with 
Chair of the Presidential Commission for Assistance to the 
Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights 
Ella Pamfilova. 
 
8. (C) Resource implications aside, the law creates 
vulnerabilities by requiring a high level of detail in its 
reporting requirements, the activists tell us.  The FRS could 
use even a minor reporting error to punish an organization, 
they argue, along the lines of the GOR's use of minor 
reporting errors to disqualify some political parties from 
running in the March regional elections . 
. 
GEARING UP TO RESPOND 
--------------------- 
 
9. (C) NGOs have begun to prepare themselves to meet the new 
requirements, although many have told us they recognize that 
the FRS could find technical reasons to punish even an NGO 
that is being meticulous in meeting its reporting 
requirements.  They also note that the courts might well 
uphold arbitrary FRS decisions.  In that connection, however, 
some are encouraged by recent victories of independent NGOs. 
Most recently, NDI scored an almost total victory in a case 
brought by tax authorities, which had charged that NDI had 
not paid its taxes properly.  NDI's position was upheld after 
it showed evidence countering the tax authorities' claim, and 
it must pay only a small fine for non-payment of a minor part 
of its tax obligations. 
 
10. (C) Recognizing that fulfilling their reporting 
requirements will reduce their vulnerability, NGOs have begun 
beefing up their capacities.  Some are hiring additional 
accountants, sometimes exploring the possibility of sharing 
staff among two or more organizations to cut down on costs. 
USAID is funding several coalitions of NGOs -- including U.S. 
groups like the International Center for Non-Profit Law 
(ICNL), as well as Russian NGOs such as the Center for 
Democracy and the Institute for Urban Economics (IUE) -- to 
help identify the specific burdens and threats these new 
regulations pose to NGOs and to coordinate and expand pro 
bono legal aid and other efforts. 
 
11. (C) Some organizations have found that the law creates 
 
MOSCOW 00005372  003 OF 004 
 
 
new obstacles to receiving direct funding from foreign 
governments.  In response, USAID is developing arrangements, 
for instance, to channel funds to Internews Russia through 
Internews Network (US) rather than directly.  Internews 
Russia will then work for the Network on a commercial 
consulting basis, rather than as a non-profit grantee.  Our 
contacts at the UK embassy told us they are working on 
similar arrangements for their grantees with Internews and 
some others.  Internews Russia is among several organizations 
that may "go corporate" because of the new law.  IUE head 
Marina Liborakina recently told us her organization has also 
begun considering that option. 
 
12. (C) Meanwhile, some Western organizations have stopped 
plans to register in Russia, preferring to provide funding to 
Russian organizations.  Leonid Stonov of the Union of 
Councils of Jewry of the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ) told us 
his organization had considered opening an office to oversee 
implementation of a major project to monitor and counter 
extremism, but has now decided to avoid the registration 
process, opting instead to channel funding directly to the 
Moscow Helsinki Group to implement that project. 
 
13. (C) Some activists have begun planning legal challenges 
to elements of the law which they believe to be 
unconstitutional.  Boris Pustyntsev, head of the St. 
Petersburg-based Citizens Watch NGO, told us he is part of an 
effort to prepare such challenges, which will either be filed 
initially in lower courts or be taken directly to the 
Constitutional Court if possible.  Pustyntsev saw little 
prospect of winning such cases in Russia but saw the move as 
preparing the ground for bringing the cases to the European 
Court of Human Rights. 
 
14. (C) Various organizations have pledged to monitor the 
law's implementation.  Among those is the Public Chamber, 
whose head, Yevgeniy Velikhov, told us May 15 that this would 
be a major focus of the recently formed body's work.  Several 
Chamber members have sought to take up the mantle.  Igor 
Chestin, a Chamber member from the World Wildlife Fund, 
recently told the Ambassador that he, along with several 
other independent-minded members, is on a working group 
monitoring implementation.  Grigoriy Tomchin, a Chamber 
member with a solid reputation for drafting legislation 
during his time in the Duma, told us he is poised to draft 
amendments to the law or to the implementing regula
tions. 
Tomchin added, however, that it is far too early to draw any 
conclusions about implementation.  Vyacheslav Nikonov, 
Chairman of the Chamber's Commission on International 
Cooperation and Public Diplomacy, told us he had intended to 
hold hearings this month with domestic and foreign NGOs on 
the law's implementation, but had concluded that it would not 
be possible to get a useful overview of implementation 
problems before September, when the hearings are now 
scheduled. 
 
15. (C) In addition to our own tracking of the NGO law's 
implementation, other embassies have begun working on that 
effort.  A Danish Embassy officer told us that after some 
internal disagreement among EU member embassies, the EU has 
established a working group to monitor implementation. 
. 
REITERATING OUR CONCERNS 
------------------------ 
 
16. (C) The Ambassador has continued to reiterate to Kremlin 
officials our concerns with implementation.  He highlighted 
that point to G8 Sherpa Igor Shuvalov, noting the damaging 
effects that abuse of the NGO law could have on the St. 
Petersburg Summit.  Shuvalov acknowledged the point and said 
it is unlikely the Kremlin will initiate a sweeping attack on 
NGOs either before or after the Summit.  The Ambassador also 
reiterated our concerns to Presidential Aide Sergey 
Prikhodko, who said he did not see the Kremlin using the law 
to make a broad assault on independent NGOs.  We also 
suggested to Nikonov that it would be helpful if at least 
some of the prominent domestic and foreign NGOs were 
registered successfully before the G8 Summit.  Nikonov took 
the point, but said he thought those working on domestic 
issues in the Presidential Administration were not inclined 
to "do favors" for the West, which would pocket such steps 
and continue criticizing Russia with no acknowledgment of the 
positive moves. 
 
17. (C) The Ambassador has also highlighted our support for 
independent NGOs, most recently by speaking at the thirtieth 
anniversary of the Moscow Helsinki Group.  We have also 
underscored that foreign assistance has benefited Russia in 
concrete ways.  The Ambassador held a reception for Junior 
Achievement Russia, which gets USG support, to make the 
latter point, which was echoed at the event by Public Chamber 
 
MOSCOW 00005372  004 OF 004 
 
 
head Velikhov.  The Ambassador will make that same point in a 
keynote address at a conference, jointly sponsored by the 
Moscow Carnegie Center and the Gorbachev Fund, that will 
center on the importance of Western cooperation with Russia. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
18. (C) There is no question that the new law, its 
implementing regulations and above all its extensive and 
detailed reporting requirements, give grounds for concern. 
The law includes some vague provisions that leave room for 
arbitrary application.  The lack of clarity about 
implementation likely results at least in part from the GOR's 
own confusion about exactly how to apply the law, but that 
also creates vulnerabilities by making it harder for NGOs to 
properly comply with the legislation.  Similarly, the 
extensive reporting requirements, though no doubt partly a 
result of Russia's cultural penchant for highly bureaucratic 
procedures, create both logistical difficulties and 
vulnerabilities for NGOs.  However the law ends up being 
implemented, these vulnerabilities are likely to foster 
greater self-censorship and dissuade at least some NGOs from 
working with foreign organizations and receiving foreign 
funding. 
 
19. (C) Nonetheless, we should not assume that a worst-case 
scenario will play out either before or after the G8 Summit. 
Significant elements of the NGO community are in good faith 
preparing for the new challenges, above all by strengthening 
their capabilities to fulfill the law's requirements.  We are 
lending a hand in that effort, although it is important for 
Russians to be seen taking the lead so that a "Made in the 
USA" stamp is not attached to independent civil society.  We 
will continue reiterating our concerns, as well as 
demonstrating our support for independent NGOs and 
highlighting the benefits to Russia of Western cooperation 
and assistance, to the degree possible doing so in 
conjunction with other governments. 
BURNS

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