07MOSCOW695, NGOS: SILVER LINING BUT A LOOMING DARK CLOUD

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW695 2007-02-16 12:27 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0088
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0695/01 0471227
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 161227Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7525
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000695 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2017 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM EAID RS
SUBJECT: NGOS: SILVER LINING BUT A LOOMING DARK CLOUD 
 
REF: MOSCOW 476 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reasons 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: After initial difficulties in getting 
re-registered, our U.S. and foreign NGO contacts have resumed 
normal activities and express little concern over the 
follow-on reporting requirements.  The Federal Registration 
Service (FRS) surprisingly has even expressed interest in 
working more closely with the NGO community and the Embassy, 
including in seeking a U.S.-based NGO to serve on a Public 
Council.  The bottom line is that ten months after the NGO 
law came into effect, it has consumed large amounts of NGOs' 
time, but has not halted their work.  At the same time, many 
here see it as more evidence that the environment for NGOs is 
becoming more tightly controlled.  They point to the Dutch 
NGO Russia Justice Initiative, already twice refused 
registration and under increasing scrutiny, as an example of 
how selective pressure can be brought to bear under the new 
law.  We will continue to urge GOR officials to reduce the 
burden on Russia's relatively large and active NGO community. 
 END SUMMARY. 
 
SILVER LINING:  COMMON SENSE LARGELY PREVAILS 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Our foreign NGO contacts generally agree that the NGO 
law has had no major effect on their operations, aside from 
the time and effort required to submit registration documents 
and subsequent reports.  Now that most foreign NGOs have been 
re-registered, the concerns many NGOs voiced earlier have 
eased, but have not completely disappeared.  Thus far, NGOs 
reported far less difficulty in completing required, 
quarterly follow-on activity and financial reports than in 
applying for re-registration, although a new round of more 
comprehensive annual financial and activity reports will be 
due in April.  Human Rights Watch (HRW) Country Director 
Allison Gill said HRW would minimize details on its work 
required in the reporting, particularly research trips to 
Chechnya, but it had no intention of abandoning such 
activities.  Other NGO contacts told us concerns about the 
reports were tied more to the lack of guidance from the 
Federal Registration Service (FRS).  In the absence of 
official guidance --expected soon but unlikely to give much 
more specific instructions -- FRS officials have instructed 
NGOs to use "common sense" in completing the reports.  Ford 
Foundation Executive Director Steven Solnick submitted Ford's 
annual program reports in October and told us he has heard 
nothing from FRS and did not expect to. 
 
FRS SEEKS BROADER COOPERATION WITH NGOS 
--------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) Anatoliy Panchenko, deputy head of the FRS Department 
on Registration of NGOs, told Emboffs recently that FRS had 
been satisfied with the results of the registration process. 
As of February 5, FRS had re-registered 200 foreign NGOs, 109 
of them based in the U.S.  There had been 18 organizations 
refused, but 10 of them had been approved after resubmitting 
their applications.  FRS conducted technical reviews of the 
applications, and concerns that the process would be 
politicized had been shown to be untrue, he noted. 
 
4.  (C) We asked about reporting requirements, including 
whether rumors that NGOs would have to keep extremely 
detailed records of events, were true.  Panchenko 
acknowledged that FRS would be unable to handle the volume of 
reports from foreign NGOs.  His department, which reviewed 
registration applications, not just for NGOs but for 
religious organizations and others required to register, had 
a staff of six.  The department monitoring reports had a 
staff of seven.  Panchenko said in most cases, FRS would 
acknowledge receipt of the report and do nothing else.  There 
may be times that reports would be reviewed if suspicions 
about a particular NGO arose, he added. 
 
5.  (C)  In fact, FRS wanted to broaden its cooperation with 
NGOs and other key actors in trying to make the registration 
process more transparent, Panchenko said.  He expressed 
willingness to have FRS officers participate in seminars 
explaining reporting requirements.  He welcomed questions 
from the Embassy or NGOs and agreed to consider posting 
answers on the FRS website.  FRS had also been working 
closely with the Public Chamber and Ella Pamfilova, Chair of 
the Presidential Commission on Development of Civil Society 
Institutions and Human Rights.  FRS was pursuing formation of 
a "public council," in conjunction with the Public Chamber, 
to monitor FRS activities.  Panchenko said the council would 
include one or two members of the Public Chamber and others 
from the organizations registered by FRS.  He suggested that 
a representative from a foreign NGO -- possibly an American 
given that American NGOs were the majority -- should serve on 
 
MOSCOW 00000695  002 OF 003 
 
 
the council. Contacts have told us that other FRS officials 
have been equally enthusiastic about FRS participation in 
fora with the NGO community.
 Panchenko has asked the 
International Center for Non-profit Law to work with FRS in 
analyzing implementation of the legislation. 
 
VISA GLITCH RESOLVED 
-------------------- 
 
6.  (C) Foreign NGO representatives have reported minor 
problems with amending bank accounts, tax accounts, and motor 
vehicle registrations arising from minor name changes 
required by FRS, such as renaming an organization a branch 
office rather than a representative office.  International 
Rescue Committee, for example, could not drive its vehicles 
because local branches of the State Automobile Inspectorate 
would not consider a copy of the FRS registration certificate 
as sufficient to amend IRC's vehicle registration.  It had to 
produce a letter from its headquarters noting the name had 
been changed. 
 
7.  (C) FRS officials quickly resolved a potential problem 
connected to visa renewals for expatriate NGO workers. 
Previously, the Federal Registration Chamber sponsored such 
visas, but the new legislation did not address that issue. 
FRS reached agreement with the registration chamber to 
continue its sponsorship, and our contacts have reported no 
visa troubles for expatriate staff. 
 
AMENDMENTS EXPECTED? 
-------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  Dr. Aleksandr Auzan, the president of the Institute 
of the National Project "Social Contract," told us that he 
expected the NGO law would soon be amended, relaxing 
registration and reporting requirements.  Auzan conducted a 
survey on the economic impact of the requirements on NGOs and 
the GOR.  His research found that the costs of implementation 
were excessive.  Senior officials, including President Putin, 
recognized that the law was ineffective in meeting stated 
goals of identifying terrorist organizations.  Putin and 
others also now considered an Orange Revolution extremely 
unlikely and were far less wary of foreign NGOs, Auzan added. 
 Auzan claimed that shortly before the NGO bill's second 
reading last year, the Presidential Administration realized 
there were problems with it.  It had planned to amend it and 
send it back to the Duma, where it would have been 
"forgotten."  Unfortunately, as international criticism grew, 
including the adoption of a resolution by the House of 
Representatives, the Kremlin changed its mind.  Deputies to 
Human Rights Ombudsman Lukin and to Commission on Development 
of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Chair 
Pamfilova have told us they are recommending a second look at 
the reporting requirements, which they believe impede the 
efficiency of NGOs (reftel). 
 
THE DARK CLOUD 
-------------- 
 
9.  (C) Contacts at the twice-refused Dutch NGO Russia 
Justice Initiative (RJI) are increasingly suspicious of FRS's 
motives.  FRS refused RJI in part because it was registered 
as a representative office, not a branch office.  FRS 
maintains its should be a branch office because it conducts 
programs.  (FRS has made a similar ruling in the cases of two 
other NGOs in considering their applications.)  RJI's 
attorney told us, however, that each time RJI submitted its 
application, FRS found new reasons not to register it.  RJI 
and Human Rights Watch had filed identical applications, the 
attorney said, and HRW was registered with little trouble 
while RJI was rejected. 
 
10.  (C) Additionally, RJI's affiliate in Ingushetiya, which 
is registered as a Russian NGO, has been notified that the 
Ministry of Justice will be inspecting the office to ensure 
that its activities are in accordance with its charter. 
RJI's attorney told us that its biggest concern was not that 
the office would be found out of compliance, but that 
government officials could get access to files containing 
names and addresses of victims of abuses who intended to 
file complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, 
putting them at risk of retaliation.  Other Russian NGO 
representatives have told us that incidences of such document 
checks have increased recently.  Panchenko told us that FRS 
has asked tax authorities to close down NGOs that have 
continued operating without applying for registration. 
 
 
OTHER LEVERS 
------------ 
 
11.  (C) RJI is the only case we know of where 
 
MOSCOW 00000695  003 OF 003 
 
 
re-registration problems may be attributable to more than GOR 
bureaucratic inefficiency.  Russian NGO contacts have also 
noted difficulties experienced by a gay rights NGO in Tyumen 
that has not been registered.  Our contacts emphasize that 
the GOR has shown it can use other levers in dealing with 
NGOs, such as accusations of extremism in the liquidation of 
the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, tax audits of 
Memorial and other organizations or, in the cases of some 
foreign NGOs, restrictions on where they can work or denial 
of visas to expatriate staff.  In most cases, such tactics 
have been used to harass organizations and limit their 
effectiveness, rather than shut them down.  At the cost of 
considerable time, effort, and money, NGOs have managed to 
continue working.  Memorial has thus far been able to defeat 
tax claims in court, according to contacts there. 
International Rescue Committee is currently prohibited from 
working in North Ossetia by local officials sensitive to any 
activity in the disputed Prigorodniy region, but continues to 
work in Ingushetiya and Chechnya.  The Russian-Chechen 
Friendship Society has reconstituted itself by registering 
two new organizations. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
12.  (C)  We have not seen signs that NGOs are modifying 
their behavior because of the law.  Thousands of NGOs 
continue to press forward on their independent agendas and 
contribute to Russia's developing civil society.  Clearly, 
however, the registration law has contributed to a climate of 
greater GOR control and provides another lever to selectively 
target both foreign and local NGOs.  Many NGOs are concerned 
about being subjected to further scrutiny.  We will continue 
to urge the GOR to provide maximum transparency and clarity 
in implementing the law, supporting those GOR officials who 
seek further amendments to reduce the law's reporting burdens. 
BURNS

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