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    Putin restates opposition to overseas financing for NGOs

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    "I personally - I will speak completely openly and honestly - have only one concern," the Russian leader said at a Moscow meeting with representatives of NGOs. "I will always speak and fight against foreign governments financing political activity in our country, just as our government should not finance political activity in other countries."

    MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Tuesday that nongovernmental organizations in Russia should not be financed from abroad.

    "I personally - I will speak completely openly and honestly - have only one concern," the Russian leader said at a Moscow meeting with representatives of NGOs. "I will always speak and fight against foreign governments financing political activity in our country, just as our government should not finance political activity in other countries."

    "This is a sphere of activity for our public and our public organizations. They should function on the money of our people, our public or financial organizations," he said.

    A new law on NGOs, which came into effect in April, set more stringent and complicated financial reporting requirements for NGOs and has been criticized in the West and by liberal groups in Russia as being too restrictive.

    Lawmakers and political scientists in Russia have claimed that NGOs helped "color revolutions" in neighboring ex-Soviet countries, particularly Ukraine and Georgia, which swept away the ruling elite in favor of West-leaning authorities in 2004 and 2003.

    But Russia has consistently defended the new legislation, saying that it had been prepared with recommendations of European legal experts and had been thoroughly studied by the Council of Europe's officials.

    In February, Putin said he regretted that an espionage scandal involving British agents, accused of working in Russia under diplomatic guises and financing NGOs, had cast a shadow on such organizations. But he said he would continue to support NGOs, though they would not be allowed to interfere in domestic affairs.

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