The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Putin stands firm on Russian NGOs as Germany's Merkel says they should be able to work freely

  • Print

HANNOVER, Germany - German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Russia's president with her concerns about a crackdown on non-governmental organizations, but Vladimir Putin brushed the issue aside by repeating that his government needs to know who is funding the groups.

Putin met with Merkel at an industry fair in Hannover. The trip highlights Russia's interest in developing foreign trade, including further business ties with Germany, but ties have been strained lately by the Kremlin's heavy-handed response to opposition groups and pressure on NGOs. Two German think-tanks were among groups targeted in recent searches.

"What is important, at least this is what I made clear, is that nongovernmental organizations can work well and freely," said Merkel, the first foreign leader to publicly confront Putin about the issue since Russian authorities launched raids of NGOs earlier this year.

"A lively civil society can only develop if individual organizations can work without fear and worry," Merkel said said at a news conference with Putin after they toured the industry fair. The chancellor, who argues that a strong civil society enhances economic modernization, insisted that "societies will always have to live with differing opinions."

A law enacted last year in Russia requires all NGOs that receive funds from abroad and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as "foreign agents," a term evoking Cold War-era espionage connotations.

Leading Russian NGOs have pledged to boycott the bill. Putin responded by ordering wide-ranging checks of up to 2,000 NGOs across the country to check their compliance with the law.

On Monday, he brushed aside criticism of Russia's legislation and actions.

"We aren't trying to put anyone under control, but we want to know how much money, through what channels and for what purpose, is being sent," he said. "Russia has passed a law on that and everyone will obey it."

"Our action is aimed not toward bans, but to impose control over financial flows from abroad," he said, adding that NGOs in Russia had got nearly $1 billion from abroad and "the public has the right to know where from and for what purpose this money flows."

Among others targeted were two German think-tanks — the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is aligned with Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, linked to the opposition Social Democrats.

Merkel said their work is "to our knowledge, entirely proper." Putin said Russia had no intention of limiting their work.

As the two leaders toured the fair, several activists from Ukraine's Femen group, bared their torsos and shouted "Putin dictator!" before being detained by guards.

A smiling Putin shrugged off the protest.

"As for the action, I liked it," he said. "You should be grateful to the girls, they are helping you make the fair more popular."

Merkel was not amused. "Whether one has to resort to such an emergency measure in Germany and can't say one's piece some other way, I have my doubts," she said.

___

Geir Moulson contributed to this report from Berlin.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Sanders gives other candidates a reality check

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A group of Horese pose for the camera in the early evening light at Southcreek Stables in Stl Norbert Wednessday. Sept  14, 2011 (RUTH BONNEVILLE) / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Jets' three pre-season losses in a row are a sign of things to come?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google