Ella Pamfilova: First of all, I have come to you for support on behalf of many of our public organisations.
We are deeply concerned by the adoption in the first reading in the State Duma yesterday of a draft law that would tighten control over the activities of public non-profit organisations. Everybody agrees overall that order should be brought to this area, but the way that this is actually being carried out, the way the Duma deputies have not taken into consideration the views of the public organisations themselves, is cause for real concern. The draft law, unfortunately, is not ideal from a legal point of view: it violates the Constitution and our commitments under international law. Unfortunately, if this draft law is adopted in its current drafting, it will complicate the work of many public organisations active in the areas of culture and education, organisations that help people facing acute social problems, organisations that work with children, orphans, people with HIV/AIDS, and deal with youth issues. We have analysed the situation carefully and have come to the conclusion that this draft law would also deal a serious blow to our cooperation with our compatriots abroad, especially in the post-Soviet area. It also contradicts what is a good idea – that of allocating budget funds to support our public organisations in the neighbouring countries.
One big problem with the draft law is that the mechanism that it proposes would make registration procedures for public non-profit organisations much tougher even in comparison with the more liberal procedures for registering commercial organisations. As a result, the draft law would paralyse the work of a large number of organisations for a long time and a lot of organisations could disappear altogether because they do not have sufficient resources to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles that would be put in their way. In other words, the draft law would raise the administrative barriers considerably.
It is hard to understand in general why the Justice Ministry, along with its function of registering organisations, is taking on the additional function of financial control which is not something it should be logically involved in. We already have the tax services and the financial monitoring services to exercise financial control. I think that our law enforcement agencies have a fair number of means at their disposal today for taking action against organisations that are not what they purport to be and are not fulfilling their proper functions.
Vladimir Putin: You know my views regarding these issues. My position is that political activities in the Russian Federation should be as transparent as possible, and this means that all issues regarding the financing of political activities in our country should also be as transparent as possible. In this respect, ongoing financing of political activity in Russia from abroad should be within the state’s field of vision, especially if this financing from abroad is coming through other countries’ state channels. And it does happen that this or that organisation working in our country and carrying out political activities is essentially being used as an instrument by other countries in the pursuit of their own foreign policy goals. But at the same time, our efforts to settle these issues should not be at the expense of the institutions of civil society in Russia. I fully agree with you on this point and I will definitely speak with the State Duma’s leadership on this matter. We will definitely hold consultations and will discuss this issue with them so as to ensure that any measures taken in this area are not to the detriment of civil society in Russia.