MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – The Kremlin will give grants to the Memorial human rights organization and several other opposition-minded NGOs that prosecutors earlier this year accused of being “foreign agents,” the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti reported Monday.
Two regional branches of Memorial will receive a combined 800,000 rubles ($24,000) from the 2.3 billion rubles ($700 million) that the Kremlin has allotted for support of non-profit groups this year, the daily reported, citing sources at the funds that are distributing the grants.
Memorial was one of dozens of NGOs accused by prosecutors earlier this year of being a “foreign agent,” or an NGO involved in political activity and receiving funding from abroad. Under a controversial 2012 law, such NGOs have to give up on overseas donations or deal with extra red tape.
The independent pollster Levada Center – likewise accused of being a foreign agent – also qualified for 2.8 million rubles ($85,000), the report said. Another recipient is the Soldiers’ Mothers group, which vehemently campaigns against abuse of draftees’ rights in the Russian army.
Grant distributors are still considering whether to grant money to two other prominent groups with a track record of criticizing the authorities, the Moscow Helsinki Group and For Human Rights, the newspaper said.
Opposition-minded NGOs have complained that they only take foreign money because the Russian government does not support them and discourages businesses from doing so.
The Kremlin is expected to officially announce the list of NGOs that qualified for its grants on Wednesday.
The biggest grant this year – 9.5 million rubles ($290,000) – goes to a group that would study the role of North Caucasus ethnic minorities in defending of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, from Nazi forces during World War II, the Fontanka.ru city news site said, citing its own sources at the grant-distributing system.
The list of recipients also includes two projects by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, including one that sees activists dress up as pigs and storm supermarkets to check quality and expiration dates of merchandise on display, Vedomosti said.
Last year, when 1 billion rubles ($30 million) was distributed through such grants, recipients included the Brotherhood of Orthodox Christian Rangers – Russia’s take on Boy Scout culture – and the motorcycle club Night Wolves, run by a personal acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin. The biker club was given 3.7 million rubles ($110,000) to organize Christmas parties for orphans.