President Vladimir Putin has backed Human Rights Commissioner Ella Pamfilova's proposal to devise a procedure of removing nongovernmental organizations from the register of foreign agents after their foreign funding ends.
Pamfilova told Putin that the Justice Ministry cannot remove NGOs, no longer financed from abroad, from the foreign agents register in the absence of a relevant procedure.
"The system working now does not allow NGOs' removal from this register. The Justice Ministry is compelled to explain to an organization that is no longer receiving foreign funding and engages in defending human rights, that no procedure has been devised for the withdrawal from the register," she said.
Pamfilova said she has drawn up withdrawal proposals that will be discussed by rights campaigners jointly with the Justice Ministry.
"I would like you to support this proposal," Pamfilova told Putin.
"I will, of course. I fully agree with you," Putin said, noting that such organizations can challenge disputed decisions in courts.
The Justice Ministry informed Interfax in a letter on November 12 that no mechanism of taking nonprofit organization off the foreign agents register was stipulated in the Russian legislation.
The ministry confirmed that it received a request from the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg regional public rights organization on September 1 for its removal from the foreign agents register.
"A letter was sent out to this organization on October 27 saying that this could not be done," the ministry's press service said.
The Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg's spokesman Alexander Peredruk confirmed to Interfax that his organization could not be taken off the register indeed in the absence of a relevant procedure.
He added that the organization's complaints against the Justice Ministry and its entry on the foreign agents register would be heard in court.
The organization's attorney, Alexander Gorbachev, told the media that an application for removal from the foreign agents register had been referred to the Justice Ministry.
"We are not being funded from abroad. The government has not been supporting us for many years now and the work is being done by volunteers on a regular basis. We later received a grant from the UN. Now that we have received Russian funding we have given up all external sources of financing, even minimal," Gorbachev said.
The Justice Ministry extended the register of foreign agents and entered the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg on it in late August. The organization's chair, Ella Polyakova, said the Justice Ministry's decision would be appealed.
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