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Cablegate: Ngo Registration Update: November 16

VZCZCXRO1033
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2471 3201425
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161425Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5187
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3559
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1765
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2013

UNCLAS MOSCOW 012471

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV PREF EAID KDEM RS
SUBJECT: NGO REGISTRATION UPDATE: NOVEMBER 16

REF: MOSCOW 12310

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Federal Registration Service (FRS)
has now re-registered 159 foreign NGOs, including Human
Rights Watch and Amnesty International. We understand FRS
has rejected five NGOs, although none appear to be U.S.
organizations. The authorities have disseminated draft
guidelines governing reporting requirements for NGO community
comment. We are hearing NGO concerns, however, about tax
filing and visa sponsorship issues that could make operations
difficult. We continue to closely track the situation and
keep NGO registration concerns high on the agenda with the
GOR. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) As of November 10, the FRS had re-registered 159
NGOs. Among them were Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International. According to Galina Fokina, acting head of
the registration section of the FRS, the applications of 29
organizations still await processing. The FRS has returned
another 29 applications for corrections. The FRS has refused
re-registration to five NGOs, although Fokina told the press
that they are "welcome to re-apply". The FRS seems to be
adhering to the requirement that it respond to NGOs within 30
days.

3. (SBU) Of the 29 NGOs USAID is tracking, 13 are still
awaiting a decision on re-registration. USAID contacts have
told us that the FSB visited the International Rescue
Committee to discuss the registration process and their
programming activities, which raised concerns among the
organization's leaders.

4. (U) The inter-agency committee responsible for clarifying
periodic reporting requirements has disseminated draft
guidelines to the NGO community for comment by the end of
November.


VISA SUPPORT AND TAX FILING QUANDARIES
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) As mentioned in reftel, NGOs have told USAID
contacts of their concerns that the law's drafters failed to
address some of the mundane, yet critical, aspects of running
a foreign NGO in Russia. The Registration Chamber previously
assisted with visa sponsorship for foreign NGO employees as
part of its accreditation responsibilities. With the
enactment of the new NGO law, the Chamber no longer has this
authority. When AmCham drafted a letter to the Ministry of
Justice requesting clarification on the issue, the Ministry
responded that it was not within their competence.

6. (SBU) According to USAID contacts, another concern NGOs
have is connected to tax filings. The FRS' strict attention
to transliteration has left some NGOs in the position of
being registered under one spelling with the FRS and another
spelling with the tax authorities. Further, the authorities
have not yet sorted out the tax status of "sub-unit" offices
who are ineligible for re-registration, but must still
register individually with local tax authorities.

7. (SBU) COMMENT. We expect the re-registration process to
continue over the next few weeks. NGOs that re-submit their
documents in a timely manner should be able to resume
activities. We were pleased to see engagement with the NGO
community on the drafting of reporting guidelines. We will
follow up with appropriate authorities on the visa and tax
issues and continue to monitor the registration process as it
unfolds.
BURNS

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