The bill which establishes tighter control over NGOs operating in Russia was passed today with an overwhelming majority (357-20-7) in the State Duma just before it left for the winter break. Before the law comes into force, it still has to be approved by the Federal Council and signed by the President, but at this point it is safe the say that this is only a procedural necessity.
Even Russia’s own Public Chamber citisized the bill after it was passed today. The Public Chamber was created earlier this year by Putin’s Administration, with the intention of strengthening Russian democracy by including civil society representation within the government’s decision-making process. However, its 126 members have been viewed largely as the smokescreen for democracy, without any real power to effectively represent civil society and effect change. This bill, however, did not pass the final reading in its original version – earlier, President Putin recommended removing the provision which would have forced all foreign NGOs operating in the country to re-register as Russian entities.
The Russian government said repeatedly that the passage of such a law is a necessary measure to limit the financing of terrorist activities and combat money laundering. Others view it as a crackdown on civil society.