Prosecutors come to 225 NGOs in fifty regions of Russia - rights activists

Human rights activists said prosecutors are inspecting more than 200 NGOs across Russia.

"The number of NGOs inspected by prosecutors in Russia as of April 10 has reached 225 from fifty regions of Russia," Pavel Chikov, the head of the human rights association Agora, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Prosecutors, Justice Ministry officials, and tax service officials began inspections of human rights organizations in March.

In Moscow, prosecutors, Justice Ministry officials, and tax service officials visited the Russian office of Amnesty International, the movement For Human Rights, the center Memorial, the foundation Public Verdict, and the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Inspectors also came to the Moscow office of Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, and the human rights committee Civic Assistance. Human rights activists said the inspections were linked to the law on foreign agents, which took effect in Russia in 2012.

Prosecutors said the inspections were routine and denied any violations of the law.

"Inspections are conducted everywhere in accordance with the Prosecutor General's Office's plan. Prosecutors are acting in strict accordance with the current legislation," Marina Gridneva, an official with the Prosecutor General's Office, earlier told Interfax.

She has also announced plans to audit about 700 nongovernmental organizations that are believed to receive funding from abroad.

"The initial plan was to carry out random inspections of compliance with the legislation on nonprofit organizations in 20 regions," she said. "During preparations for the inspections, information came in that, from the day the law on nonprofit organizations acting as foreign agents came into force, that is November 21, 2012, to March 26, 2013, 654 nonprofit organizations received more than 28.3 billion rubles from abroad."

"However, none of the nonprofit organizations have been put on the register of nonprofit organizations that are acting as foreign agents. For this reason, it has been decided to inspect organizations that are receiving foreign financing throughout the territory of Russia," Gridneva said. "There is no doubt about the accuracy of the conclusions of the authorities on the size of the foreign financing of the nonprofit organizations. These figures are documented."

"Even if one judges by what experts from the nonprofit organizations themselves have said, in 2011 nonprofit organizations that were operating in Russia received no less than 19 billion rubles from abroad," the spokeswoman added.

"Supervisory inspections are continuing. It is being found out what the goals are of the organizations that receive foreign money pursue, what specific activities they pursue, and whether it is lawful. Specialists from the Russian Ministry of Justice, the Federal Tax Service, and Rosfinmonitoring [the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, an anti-money laundering agency] are involved in the inspections, among others," she said.

A law requiring NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as "foreign agents" took effect in Russia on November 21, 2012. In March, the Justice Ministry press service said the mass inspections of NGOs were aimed at revealing "foreign agents."

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