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Russian NGO bill gets second approval in Duma

[JURIST] Russia's Duma [official website], the lower house of parliament, approved on Wednesday a much-criticized bill restricting NGO activity by 376-10 on its second reading. The bill would create a government agency [JURIST report] with broad power to monitor and regulate NGOs though original provisions that would have subjected local branches of foreign groups to strict financial and legal restrictions have been removed. Supporters of the bill say that it is a necessary response to fears that foreign NGOs could intervene in Russia's political system. Pro-democracy and rights groups have said that the limited amendments [JURIST report] to the bill do not go far enough. NGOs have expressed concern that Russia will still be able to expel groups [Daily Telegraph report] that infringe on Russia's sovereignty or cultural heritage. The bill needs only one more reading and approval, scheduled for Friday, before being sent to the upper house of parliament; no further amendments may be added during this reading. AP has more.

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