Foreign NGOs Lose Tax Status

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a decree reducing the number of international organizations allowed to issue tax-free grants from 101 to just 12, Interfax reported Wednesday.

The sharp reduction could raise new fears about a crackdown on foreign nongovernmental organizations.

Groups whose grants will no longer be tax-exempt from Jan. 1 include the World Wildlife Fund (Switzerland), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Switzerland), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS (Switzerland), the Ford Foundation (U.S.), the Eurasia Foundation (U.S.) and the Royal Society (Britain), Interfax said.

The 12 organizations that made the tax-exempt list include the Commission of the European Communities, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the European Fund for the Support of Co-production and Distribution of Cinematographic and Audiovisual Works, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, and several United Nations programs.

The previous list of 101 groups was approved by the government in March 2007.

Putin and other government officials have accused foreign NGOs of meddling in domestic politics and have drastically tightened registration and financial procedures for the groups in recent years.