Putin says will foster civil society, prevent foreign meddling

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MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that his country was seeking to bolster civil society but would not allow foreign funding for Russian non-governmental organizations engaged in domestic politics.

In an interview with Germany's CDF television channel ahead of a Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg this weekend, Putin said: "We do not want to accuse anybody... But we do not welcome and will not assist foreign governments to send money to the Russia Federation in a non-transparent way, via secrete services, while these organizations pursue political activity in Russia."

The president said he believed this was the right approach for countries, be they Russia or Germany, seeking to preserve their sovereignty.

Russia has been criticized for allegedly backsliding on democracy, particularly in light of a new NGO law that set out more stringent financial reporting and other requirements for public organizations in Russia.

Putin said Russia's justice minister had consulted with European colleagues on the law before it was passed.

"In the Council of Europe, members of two departments - the human rights and law departments - set up a commission, also inviting independent European experts, and provided written recommendations," Putin said. "We took those recommendations into account, and I sent them to parliament. All of them were approved."

Asked whether a "managed democracy," the term attributed to the Kremlin, was possible, Putin said it was a democracy run from abroad. Putin said he knew some examples of managed democracies, including among post-Soviet states, apparently referring to former Soviet allies that reoriented toward the West and enjoyed open support from the United States and other countries.

"This will not work with respect to Russia," he said.

Addressing criticism for abolishing gubernatorial elections and other moves to curb broad powers Russian governors enjoyed under Boris Yeltsin, Putin pointed to a new law to decentralize power, and to divide authority between Moscow and regions.

Putin warned against picking out some decisions leaving others unnoticed.

"A comprehensive approach must be taken to what we are doing. One of the decisions was to increase the number of municipal entities considerably (from 12,000 to 24,000) and give them more powers and financial sources," Putin said, adding that regions were also receiving more authority and finance sources.

He also said in Germany some draft laws could not be blocked by Lands, which could also be called undemocratic.

The president said the government heeded and responded to media criticism if it found it "constructive."

Putin reiterated his argument against accusations of clamping down on media freedom, saying there were over 40,000 print editions and 3,500 television and radio stations in the country and it was impossible to control all of them. He also said the majority of media outlets had foreign investors.

He also accused the media of manipulating public opinion, citing the coverage of Russia's gas pricing dispute with Ukraine, when it briefly cut off supplies to its neighbor, and its project to build a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to export gas directly to Germany.

Media reports in Russia's former Soviet neighbors and in the West have slammed the moves as blackmail and intimidation without heeding to Russia's case for raising gas prices and avoiding transit countries.

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