Russian oligarch lends a hand to struggling rights group
Russian billionnaire Mikhail Prokhorov has given a struggling rights group one million rubles ($35,000) after it ran out of funds due to a restrictive new law, the group's leader said Wednesday.
Prokhorov, who ran for the presidency in March on a liberal platform but has largely dropped out of the political scene since, donated the sum to the Moscow Helsinki group, its veteran president Lyudmila Alexeyeva said.
"That gives me hope that our group will continue to exist," she told AFP.
The group, Russia's oldest human rights organisation, monitors rights abuses in the country and organises lectures for activists, including in the North Caucasus.
A large part of its budget came from USAID, which ceased its Russia operations in October after Moscow unexpectedly told it to leave.
Alexeyeva has also said the group will not be taking foreign donations after Russia passed a law branding groups with money from abroad "foreign agents."
Instead she issued an appeal for Russian funds in late December, and about 200,000 rubles ($6,500) came in the first two days of the campaign, Alekseyeva said.
"Even those who are far from wealthy try to help us," she said. One pensioner in Lipetsk has pledged a portion of his pension to the NGO, while a small theatre troupe in Far-East Komsomolsk-on Amur gave a charity performance in its name.
"We have existed in Russia for 36 years, and always have worked for the Russian people, not a foreign state. People know this," she added.
No organisations were yet prosecuted for failing to adhere themselves to the "foreign agents" list, but violation of the law can carry a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,700), and even imprisonment.
© 2012 AFP