Russia NGO law: Election watchdog Golos suspended

The office of leading Russian independent election watchdog Golos in Moscow (file image) Golos, founded in 2000, was a thorn in the side of the Russian government as it charted fraud and abuses across the country during elections

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Russia's government has suspended the country's best-known election watchdog, Golos, for six months after it refused to register as a "foreign agent".

It is the authorities' latest move against Golos, which charted fraud across the country in 2011 polls.

Under a controversial recent Russian law, NGOs involved in political activity funded from abroad must register as "foreign agents".

Golos denies any foreign-funded political work.

On its website, the 13-year-old organisation announced plans to dissolve itself and reorganise under a different name.

Since returning to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin has signed a series of laws apparently designed to rein in dissent and weaken civil society, say correspondents.

Many felt the controversial "foreign agents" law, which took effect in November, was specifically targeted at Golos, which used to receive funding from the US government development agency USAID.

Two months ago it was fined for receiving prize money from Norway for its human rights work - which it said it had returned as soon as it could.

Now it has been suspended from carrying out any activities, said a statement from Russia's justice ministry quoted by Interfax news agency, "because the association has not applied to be included on the register of non-commercial organisations performing the functions of a foreign agent".

It added: "The activities have been suspended for the duration of six months until 25 December 2013."

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