[JURIST] US President George Bush has said he will tell Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, English version; BBC profile] that non-governmental organizations should be able to function "without intimidation" and that Russia needs to have an "active civil society" in private meetings between the two presidents during this week's Group of Eight (G8) [DOS backgrounder] summit in St. Petersburg. Russian NGOs have come under increased pressure since Putin signed a controversial law [JURIST report] earlier this year granting the state tighter control over them. Speaking Thursday at a joint news conference [transcript] with German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website in German; BBC profile] on a brief stopover visit, Bush added that western nations need to continue to "remind Russia if she wants to [continue to] have good relations that she ought to share common values with us."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] also called on Russia Thursday to stop trying to stifle critics [MosNews report] of Russia in reference to Moscow protests last week where people were prevented from reaching the demonstration against the G8 summit [MosNews report]. HRW's comments came just one day after Putin accused western critics of using "colonialist" language in criticizing his country. BBC News has more.