Activist slams Russian NGO probe as 'intimidation'

21st September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Leading rights group Memorial on Tuesday slammed a string of unprecedented audits by Russian prosecutors at the offices of 40 nongovernmental groups this month as "a campaign of intimidation".

"This is the latest obstacle to the work of independent nongovernmental organisations in Russia," Yan Rachinsky, a leader of the prize-winning group, told AFP.

"It was a completely pointless operation. We had the impression that it is some kind of campaign of intimidation."

He said Russian prosecutors had carried out short-notice audits at the offices of some 40 NGOs, demanding copies of their charter, registration, tax receipts and other documents, many of which are publicly available.

"As far as I know, there were checks at about 40 organisations and not only in Moscow," Rachinsky said.

"The checks are completely senseless because all the documents that they took from us and other organisations could easily have been found at the justice ministry or other such bodies."

"Even the prosecutors had trouble saying what they were doing there," he said. "All of these are big NGOs that are not easily intimidated. Maybe it is meant as a warning to the smaller NGOs."

The Moscow City Prosecutor's office said last week it had begun a probe of a number of nongovernmental organisations to verify the implementation of a 2006 law on NGOs.

The Moscow Helsinki Group, a top rights watchdog, and anti-corruption group Transparency International were among those under investigation.

In 2006, then president Vladimir Putin, wary of foreign-funded groups, signed a law that increased scrutiny of the financing of Russian NGOs.

© 2010 AFP

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