The instigators of Russia’s punitive NGO law argue that civil society groups should seek domestic funds instead of overseas backers.
But, Interfax reports: One of Russia’s leading human rights organizations, the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, might have to close its Moscow office and stop operation due to the lack of funds.
“We haven’t paid for rent and utilities since 2010. We just have no money,” executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers Valentina Melnikova (above) told Interfax today.
“If we do not pay at least part of the debt by 1 December, they will turn off electricity and telephone at our office. It will be impossible to work. This is almost certain. We appealed to various organizations but could not find support. Colleagues cannot help us, they have no money either,” Melnikova said.
The group has not received a Russian grant since 1992 and most of their funds come from the West – from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, and funds in Norway and Germany.
Russia’s Defense Ministry should support the group, says Lev Ponomaryov, the leader of the For Human Rights movement.
“If the state respects the organization – and its representative [Melnikova] is on the Defense Ministry’s Public Council – how could it have gotten to the point that the organization has nothing to pay with?” Ponomaryov told RIA Novosti:
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said financing issues for many human rights came to the fore after a new law on NGOs was adopted in Russia.
“The only thing I can advise is creating an electronic wallet. The Union of Russian Soldiers’ Mothers Committees has done a lot of good and helped a lot of people, so maybe there are a lot of people who will raise funds for them, especially considering they do not need a big sum,” Alexeyeva told RIA Novosti.
For Human Rights and the Moscow Helsinki Group are also grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy.