Moscow in tax claim for human rights body
A leading Russian non-governmental organisation has been given a $180,000 (£97,000) back-tax bill in what it fears could be the first blow of a campaign to shut down NGOs that annoy the Kremlin.
The International Protection Centre said it had been told on July 17 to pay 5 million roubles in taxes on funds it had received from various foreign institutions between 2002 and 2005.
The Centre helps Russians to take cases against the Russian state to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and has won nine victories. It is helping Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oil tycoon, to appeal to Strasbourg.
Valentin Moiseyev, the centre’s deputy director, told The Times that the tax claim was politically motivated.
“Why should foreign foundations pay money into the Russian budget?” he asked. “We don’t make any profit. We don’t receive any income. We spend the money on education.” Mr Moiseyev said that the Centre was funded by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the National Endowment for Democracy and the MacArthur Foundation.
The Kremlin says the restrictions are needed to prevent governments from using NGOs to start a Ukrainian-style revolution in Russia.
Critics accuse the country’s rulers of trying to silence civil society.
Cherie Blair highlighted the measures during the G8 summit in St Petersburg this month when she offered free legal aid to groups fighting a restrictive new NGO law.
By Jeremy Page