MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said on Wednesday that only one non-governmental organization in Russia has so far registered as a foreign agent under a recently introduced law on NGOs.
Russia’s controversial new law, obligating non-governmental organizations financed from abroad and involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents,” came into force last November. The first organization to register under the new law last December was the “Shchit i Mech” (Shield and Sword) human rights group from the Chuvashia Republic.
“As for requests, I have no other information besides the only association from Chuvashia, about which you already know,” Konovalov told a session of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.
The minister added that Russian NGOs are currently in a stage of “adjustment” to the norms of the new law, which should gradually become part of routine judicial practice.
Alexei Glukhov, the head of “Shchit i Mech,” said earlier his organization decided to register under the new legislation to find out how the new law works from the inside.
The new legislation also requires NGOs to publish a biannual report on their activities and carry out an annual financial audit.
Failure to comply with the law could result in fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900).
Kremlin officials have repeatedly claimed that Washington is using NGOs in Russia as a cover to bring about political change. President Vladimir Putin once famously called Russian NGOs involved in politics “jackals.”