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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW6173 2006-06-08 11:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #6173/01 1591118
P 081118Z JUN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 006173 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2016 
Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kirk Augustine.  Reason 1.4 
 (b, d) 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary Erica 
Barks-Ruggles discussed the controversial NGO law and the 
broader human rights and democracy situation in Russia with a 
range of NGO representatives on May 30-31.  She expressed 
support for NGOs in Russia and asked about current trends for 
civil society in light of the new law.  The universally 
worried NGO representatives expressed concern about the 
vagueness of the law, particularly with regard to groups 
perceived to be involved in "political activities," and 
believed that it would be used selectively against 
organizations to which the Kremlin objected.  They agreed 
that such a crackdown would likely begin only after the G-8 
Summit and that several groups would likely be targeted as 
examples to increase pressure on others to self-censor.  Some 
representatives said that involving the Public Chamber more 
in their activities would strengthen their organizations' 
ability to survive in the current environment, while others 
were wary of working with that Kremlin-sponsored institution. 
2. (C) During a May 30-31 visit to Moscow, DRL Deputy 
Assistant Secretary Erica Barks-Ruggles held meetings with a 
range of NGO representatives to discuss the controversial NGO 
law as well as the broader human rights and democracy 
challenges in Russia. Participants included: 
Yelena Abrosimova, IREX 
Manana Aslamazyan, Internews 
Allison Gill, Human Rights Watch 
Joe Johnson, International Republican Institute (IRI) 
Gillian McCormak, Internews 
Mary O'Hagan, National Democratic Institute (NDI) 
Tatyana Raguzina, American Chamber of Commerce 
Grigoriy Shvedov, Memorial 
Aleksey Simonov, Glasnost Defense Foundation 
3. (C) Barks-Ruggles emphasized throughout the visit that a 
healthy civil society was important to strengthen Russia and 
was also in U.S. interests.  Her meetings represented a wider 
effort by the USG to assist civil society in Russia. 
Barks-Ruggles said the U.S. and European partners are 
coordinating efforts to support NGOs in Russia as well as to 
respond to the harassment of NGOs in that and other 
countries.  She said the USG wanted to help NGOs in Russia in 
a constructive manner and asked about the current atmosphere 
in the wake of the passage of the NGO law. 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
4. (C) Raguzina told Barks-Ruggles that in a May 25 meeting 
with foreign NGOs, Aleksey Zhafyarov from the Federal 
Registration Service (FRS) stated that NGOs would be fine as 
long as they stayed away from "politics."  Raguzina noted, 
however, that Zhafyarov had not defined what constituted 
"politics" and that the FRS likely had not defined "political 
activity."  O'Hagan added that when asked by one of NDI's 
employees after the May 25 meeting what Zhafyarov meant by 
"politics," he had not given a clear answer.  Abrosimova 
noted that in a separate meeting with Russian NGOs, Zhafyarov 
stated that "political activity" involved support for 
political parties or certain types of electoral activity, 
such as campaigning for candidates.  The concept was so vague 
that it was open to wide interpretation, giving authorities 
latitude to restrict any NGOs engaged in activities not to 
the government's liking. 
5. (C) O'Hagan suggested the authorities would not target 
specific activities, but specific organizations.  Aslamazyan 
believed that the NGO law would be used selectively against 
organizations to which the Kremlin objected.  The unofficial 
message that she had received in discussions with the 
authorities was that an organization would be in trouble if 
it was on a "target list" of NGOs.  There was general 
agreement from all the representatives on this point, as well 
as the sense that such a crackdown will only begin after the 
G-8 Summit concludes.  Aslamazyan noted that the new law 
would make it easy for the Kremlin to shut down any 
organization it did not like.  All representatives noted that 
it was likely the government would target a few select NGOs, 
with the expectation that this would pressure others to 
self-censor.  The government, they believed, was correct in 
this assessment. 
6. (C) Gill expressed concern that specific NGOs would be 
targeted for political reasons, while some organizations 
would run into difficulties simply due to the chaos 
surrounding the implementing process.  Additionally, the law 
MOSCOW 00006173  002 OF 003 
might be used against small NGOs that ran afoul of local and 
regional authorities.  Shvedov noted that many NGOs could 
also run into problems with corrupt officials using the law 
to harass NGOs as well as purely bureaucratic issues, which 
would be difficult to differentiate from political 
82;7. (C) Gill said the law was similar to one passed in 
Uzbekistan a few years ago and constituted a breach of 
Russia's commitment to the European Convention.  Under the 
new law, reporting requirements for NGOs were particularly 
burdensome.  Organizations were required to fill out annual 
reports, quarterly financial reports, and a separate yearly 
report for planned activities.  If there were changes in 
their activities, NGOs were required to inform the FRS.  This 
requirement could be particularly problematic when making 
adjustments for events like lectures that were difficult to 
plan in advance.  In addition, Gill believed it would be 
difficult for Human Rights Watch (HRW) to conduct human 
rights monitoring in Chechnya, since authorities might 
determine such activity to be objectionable and accuse HRW of 
threatening the national security of Russia. 
8. (C) Looking more broadly at the state of civil society, 
Shvedov believed that the law served to legitimize pressure 
and harassment that some NGOs, particularly those working in 
the North Caucasus, already faced.  In responding to this 
pressure, it was important to go beyond simply making public 
statements.  Greater emphasis should be placed on building 
the technical and legal expertise of NGOs.  Shvedov noted 
that it would be easy to close many Russian NGOs since most 
did not have strong management that was able to meet previous 
legal requirements, let alone those under the new law.  If 
there was a substantial increase in pressure after the G8 
summit, as many NGO leaders expected, Russian NGOs would be 
unprepared.  In addition, NGOs operating in Russia needed to 
build links with NGOs that operated in other countries and 
learn from their experience. 
9. (C) Abrosimova agreed that it was important to share 
experiences with NGOs from other countries.  She added that 
in response to the new law, IREX's USG-funded civil society 
program was working on creating an association of NGO lawyers 
to provide legal expertise and monitor court cases.  They 
were also working on coordinating NGOs that do networking in 
the regions.  IREX had already held USG-sponsored roundtable 
discussions on the transparency and accountability of NGOs 
throughout Russia. 
10. (C) O'Hagan stressed the need for civil society to 
monitor the impact of the law on NGOs.  Raguzina suggested 
that the Public Chamber could play a significant role in the 
monitoring process, but O'Hagan doubted the usefulness of 
independent NGOs giving a Kremlin-created body like the 
Public Chamber a major role in that process.  While O'Hagan 
said it was important to have a dialogue with the Public 
Chamber, she criticized its performance during the 
development of the NGO law.  Shvedov also expressed doubts 
about how much the Public Chamber could help civil society. 
Shvedov did not rule out working with the Public Chamber if 
it developed good programs, but he believed that it would be 
a mistake for independent NGOs to work with the Chamber to 
develop mechanisms to monitor the law.  Simonov said the 
Public Chamber was part of a larger pattern of the Kremlin 
trying to impose top down control on civil society through 
Government Oriented Non-Governmental Organizations, (GONGOs). 
11. (C) Abrosimova thought it would be useful for NGOs to 
create links with the Public Chamber by working on issues 
related to the Kremlin's National Priority Projects.  Johnson 
agreed that it was important for NGOs to involve 
state-supported organizations like the Public Chamber. 
Johnson added that in his experience the key to having good 
relations with authorities was to avoid publicly embarrassing 
them.  Johnson asserted that while the NGO law was vague and 
burdensome, the FRS had so far been responsive to IRI's 
inquires.  By not "picking fights" with officials and trying 
to involve the business community, Johnson said IRI had been 
successful in working in a number of different regions in 
Russia.  Shvedov responded that Memorial did not try to pick 
fights with authorities, but he believed his organization 
would be targeted regardless of its approach.  He noted that 
Memorial had already received warnings from the authorities 
about publishing information about Hizb-ut-Tahrir on its 
website and had undergone a number of tax inspections. 
MOSCOW 00006173  003 OF 003 
12. (C) Responding to Barks-Ruggles' question about what the 
USG could do to help civil society in Russia, Aslamazyan 
responded that the situation in the country was complicated 
and urged a careful approach.  It was not constructive to 
publicly cast GOR actions in black-and-white terms.  McCormak 
noted that vocal public criticism from senior foreign 
officials on democracy and human rights affected NGOs in 
Russia since the authorities used it as an excuse to blame 
them for giving the country a bad reputation. 
13. (C) The tone of resignation amongst NGOs was striking in 
these conversations.  They clearly view the new law as just 
one salvo in a long-term effort by the government to control 
their activities.  They are working - some more rapidly than 
others - on strategies to survive and endure.  It is clear 
that Russian NGOs feel more vulnerable than international 
NGOs as they will have both national and local pressure 
brought to bear on them, and have fewer resources and more 
limited capacity to deal with the onerous new requirements in 
the regulations.  It will be important for the USG and other 
donors to continue to support NGO work - both financially and 
diplomatically - as the pressure increases.  Suggestions by 
these groups for capacity building, pooled "back-office" 
resources, and strengthening networks of indigenous and 
international NGOs merit increased attention.  End Comment. 
14. (U) DAS Barks-Ruggles has cleared on the text of this 


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