Soldiers’ Mothers ‘Should Ask Defense Ministry for Debt Help’

MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) – Rights activists have advised the Union of Russian Soldiers’ Mothers Committees, which faces closure over unpaid rent on its offices, to ask the Defense Ministry and Russian nationals for help.

Earlier the union’s head Valentina Melnikova told RIA Novosti that the Moscow office of the soldiers’ rights organization had piled up rental and public utility debts totaling 400,000 rubles ($12,600) over the past two years. She said electricity and phone services would be cut unless partial payment is made by December 1.

Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights movement, said the Defense Ministry should support the union.

“If the state respects the organization – and its representative [Melnikova] is on the Defense Ministry’s Public Council – how could it have gotten to the point that the organization has nothing to pay with?” Ponomaryov said.

“Couldn’t the issue of finding the funds be raised in the Public Council?” he told RIA Novosti. “I think they should turn directly to the defense minister.”

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said financing issues for many human rights came to the fore after a new law on NGOs was adopted in Russia.

“The only thing I can advise is creating an electronic wallet. The Union of Russian Soldiers’ Mothers Committees has done a lot of good and helped a lot of people, so maybe there are a lot of people who will raise funds for them, especially considering they do not need a big sum,” Alexeyeva told RIA Novosti.

“It would be right and just if the public helped,” she said.

The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, has passed a series of controversial laws in recent months, including one requiring NGOs which receive financing from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Critics have claimed it is part of the Kremlin’s wide-ranging crackdown on dissent and what it perceives to be foreign interference in Russian domestic affairs.


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