Human Rights Groups Critical of Kremlin Win State Funding

MOSCOW, December 5 (RIA Novosti) – State grants worth 200 million rubles ($6 million) allotted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for human rights initiatives have been distributed among 124 projects, including some organizations critical of the Kremlin.

In early September, Putin ordered the Civil Dignity movement to hold a grant competition for socially important initiatives amid Russia’s efforts to decrease foreign funding of NGOs in the country.

“124 projects from 47 regions were named winners,” the movement said in a statement Thursday.
The winners were selected out of 713 submitted initiatives.

The list of winners includes human rights NGOs known for their criticism of state policy, such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, For Human Rights, Memorial and legal assistance group Agora.

Last year, Russia introduced a law that obliges NGOs that receive foreign funding and whose activities are in any way deemed “political” to register as “foreign agents” – a term associated in Russia with espionage. The new law prompted many prominent groups that depended on foreign grants to seek funding in Russia, which they said was a challenge.

Pavel Chikov, who heads one of the presidential grant winners, the Kazan-based Agora, warned on his Twitter account Thursday that the state money might create even more problems for the NGOs as it brings with it “a high risk of checks, complaints and criminal prosecution.”

Another $50 million rubles earmarked by Putin is still to be distributed by two other grant allocators.

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