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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NGOs Prepare to Address President

President Vladimir Putin will attend a two-hour session Tuesday of an international conference that has drawn many of the activists targeted by a recent law regulating NGOs.

As part of Russia's G8 festivities, the two-day conference -- presided over by Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential council for civil society -- is unlikely to feature any heated confrontations between the president and NGO activists.

But it comes at the same time that the Kremlin is seeking to curb the activity of private activist groups, especially those with foreign funding. The NGO law came into effect earlier this year; the law regulates many NGO activities and requires more extensive information about where NGOs get their money and how they spend it. It has drawn international criticism.

More than 600 activists from over 50 countries attended the first day of the conference, called the Civil G8, on Monday to discuss human rights, HIV, global energy security and ecology, among other issues.

The conference is being held at the high-end World Trade Center Moscow.

Groups of conference participants will issue recommendations Tuesday for the G8's 2007 agenda. Participants plan to convey some of these recommendations to Putin when he shows up at the meeting.

Veteran human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina said she hoped that next year's G8 president, Germany, would put greater emphasis on human rights. Specifically, she would like to see discussion of an international asylum system for refugees.

Russia's handling of refugees from Chechnya, Central Asia and elsewhere is "in shambles," Gannushkina said. There are 418 people in Russia recognized by the government as refugees -- probably less than the number of government officials working on refugee issues, she said.

Gannushkina also said the religious liberty of Russia's Muslims needed to be better-protected.

Robin Montgomery of AIDS Foundation East-West, a Dutch group fighting AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, voiced hope that the conference would broaden the G8 conversation about HIV. Conference attendees on Monday discussed the need for preventive care and reaching out to high-risk groups.

Business community representatives also met with NGOs to discuss "social partnership," as the conference agenda put it. Business representatives complained that government corruption often limited the potential of free enterprise to give to charity, creating an image of greed.

Civil G8 precedes the "A Different Russia" meeting in Moscow, to be held July 11-12. Unlike Civil G8, "A Different Russia" is unsanctioned by the Kremlin, which has warned Western governments not to send representatives. "A Different Russia" is being organized by NGOs and opposition leaders. Expected attendees include former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and chess champion-turned-opposition figure Garry Kasparov.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, which is participating in both conferences, said that "A Different Russia" would be a more modest affair than Civil G8 ,and that the meeting would focus on Russian instead of international issues. "Given that the authorities have declared war on civil society by trampling on human rights," she said, "we are going to be discussing our own problems."