MOSCOW, October 8 (RAPSI) – The Russian government's legislative commission has approved a bill aimed at reducing the fines for non-government organizations that fail to register as foreign agents with the Ministry of Justice in violation of law, reads a statement published on the government’s website on Wednesday.
The Justice Ministry introduced the bill after receiving complaints from the Human Rights Commissioner.
The bill reduces the minimum penalty from 100,000 rubles (about $2,500) to 50,000 rubles (about $1,200) for officials and from 300,000 rubles (about $7,500) to 100,000 rubles (about $2,500) for legal entities.
According to a 2012 federal law, NGOs engaged in political activity and receiving foreign funding are required to register as “foreign agents” with the Ministry of Justice.
Large-scale inspections of NGOs began in late March 2013 when the Ministry of Justice said its goal was to check that these organizations' activities corresponded with the objectives of their charters and Russian legislation.
In June 2013, the law was amended to authorize the Ministry of Justice to add even unregistered NGOs to the foreign agents list at its own discretion. The ministry subsequently added five organizations to the register.
State officials came under fire from international human rights groups and Western governments for carrying out unannounced and lengthy inspections while the law was heavily criticized.
The Kostroma Center for Civic Initiatives Support which was fined 300,000 rubles (app, $9,000) for breaching the law turned to the Constitutional Court. It recognized last April the constitutionality of a legal provision that obligates NGOs to register as foreign agents.