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Russia slashes state funding for `foreign agent` NGOs

Some of Russia`s leading NGOs said Thursday that their work would be hit after they were turned down for grants by a government that brands them "foreign agents" under a controversial law.



Moscow: Some of Russia`s leading NGOs said Thursday that their work would be hit after they were turned down for grants by a government that brands them "foreign agents" under a controversial law.

Prominent human rights groups that received state monies in previous years will not get aid in 2016, officials announced Wednesday, with more funds apparently going towards patriotic organisations seen as bolstering the Kremlin.

The country`s most prominent rights group Memorial; the Committee of Soldiers` Mothers in Saint Petersburg, which investigates military abuses; and the Golos election monitoring group will not receive any funding.

They have all been forced to register as "foreign agents" under a 2012 law aimed at groups receiving funding from abroad that Moscow says is designed to stop meddling by the West but civil society has decried as part of a campaign to stifle criticism.

In response to the refusal, Golos launched a public appeal for $54,000 (49,000 euros) to prevent a cash shortfall.

"We ask responsible citizens and businesses to support our fight for honest elections," Golos co-chairman Grigory Melkoniants told the Interfax news agency.

Memorial`s Alexander Cherkasov told AFP that the grant refusal would hit a programme in support of refugees in Russia that his organisation runs.

"Of course it means that our work will be hurt," he told AFP.

Only one organisation classified as a "foreign agent" -- a regional branch of the For Human Rights group -- was approved for funding.

The group is to receive some $58,000 (52,000 euros).

The Moscow Helsinki Group and the Levada Centre pollster, both seen as independent, were among other rights groups to be approved for grants.

Analysts said that public funds seemed to be increasingly directed towards organisations seen as supporting the Russian authorities.

"Most grants are destined for patriotic projects which are part of the current system," independent analyst Maria Lipman told AFP.

Among the pro-Kremlin groups to be earmarked for funding was the Unity movement, known for its t-shirts with slogans supporting President Vladimir Putin, which was granted some $184,000 (166,000 euros).

Another group was awarded around $216,000 (195,000 euros) to organise a youth forum on the Crimea peninsula that Russia seized last year from Ukraine.

Of the roughly 4,400 projects submitted, some 630 received financing in the first round of funding.  

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