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Russia's lower house of parliament will consider a bill Friday on banning Russian civil servants from conducting academic, research and other activities using funds from foreign donors
Russia's lower house of parliament will consider a bill Friday on banning Russian civil servants from conducting academic, research and other activities using funds from foreign donors. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who leads the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, described as "unacceptable" the current situation, in which financial sponsorship from Russians is outlawed, while funds contributed by foreign individuals and organizations are considered perfectly legal. "If civil servants - from a government official to a military serviceman or a judge - receive money from Petrov or Sidorov [typical Russian names], this is a bribe, but if it's from [U.S. financier George] Soros, this is a grant," Gryzlov said. "This servant-of-two-masters type of situation is unacceptable to our civil servants." Soros has provided hefty financial support for academics, researchers and civil society groups in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics since the fall of the Soviet Union. However, aid from Soros's Open Society Institute and other foreign donors is frowned upon by Russian authorities, who suspect the grants are being used to buy the recipients' loyalty. If approved, the bill will be another step toward reducing the influence of foreign financiers in Russia. They have faced increasing resistance from the Kremlin since a wave of popular revolutions swept across the former Soviet Union, installing pro-Western leaders in Georgia and Ukraine. In July 2005, President Vladimir Putin accused foreign non-governmental organizations of interfering with Russian politics. Later that year, the Duma passed legislation restricting operations in the country of foreign NGOs and local campaign groups funded from abroad.
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