MOSCOW, April 22 (RAPSI) - The Justice Ministry's regional branches view bar associations as NGOs, and they are trying to find "foreign agents" among them, according to the resolution of the Sixth National Conference of Lawyers, which was held in Moscow on Monday.

According to the resolution, some regional branches are demanding governance and financial reports from bar associations, even though they are monitored by a special law. The lawyers have not provided concrete examples, but they said that a Justice Ministry branch in one region has threatened to shut down the local bar association for failing to provide the required documents.

"Explaining such actions by the need to find funding sources other than those stipulated by the law and also to expose 'foreign agents' among bar associations is evidence of poor knowledge of Law on Advocacy, as well as the legal nihilism of those who initiate such inspections," according to the document.

The lawyers have appealed to the ministry to respect the law, bar associations' independence and their right to self-government, and guarantees of lawyers' independence, and to tell its territorial agencies that bar associations are not NGOs.

The highly controversial law on NGOs, which took effect in November 2012, requires politically active NGOs with foreign funding to register as "foreign agents." Once registered, these NGOs face heightened scrutiny.