NGOs Scrambling to Meet Deadline

Two foreign NGOs are being told to stop their work while dozens of others are unsure whether they will be able to continue as an Oct. 18 registration deadline nears.

Foreign NGOs that miss Wednesday's deadline will be forced to suspend their activities and begin the registration process all over again with the Justice Ministry's Federal Registration Service.

The registration requirements are part of a nongovernmental organization measure signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in January; the requirements do not apply to Russian NGOs.

The law, which came into effect in April, has sparked widespread criticism in the West.

Putin tried to put the law's effects into perspective earlier this week at a forum in Dresden, Germany, saying the vast majority of the 400 foreign NGOs that had filed applications had not been denied their registration.

It is unknown which groups have been denied.

A secretary for presidential spokeswoman Natalya Timakova refused to make the spokeswoman available for an interview Thursday.

Officials at the Federal Registration Service could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said his organization was in the final stages of renewing its registration; all that was left was for Alexei Zhafyarov, head of the NGO department in the Federal Registration Service, to sign the paperwork. Somers also said that, to his knowledge, 80 NGOs had already had their registrations renewed and that he had not heard of any rejections.

"We have found the agency very cooperative," Somers said Thursday. He praised Zhafyarov for meeting with representatives from 70 foreign NGOs last month to answer questions.

Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, said he only submitted his paperwork last week because the rules for applying for registration were not issued until mid-July.

The center's lawyers had found nothing particularly difficult with the process besides the requirement for detailed information about all the founders of the NGO, including those who are no longer affiliated with it, Safranchuk said.