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  Monday, October 21, 2019
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The lower house of Russia's parliament adopted in its third and final reading Wednesday a bill banning government officials from being involved in scientific
The lower house of Russia's parliament adopted in its third and final reading Wednesday a bill banning government officials from being involved in scientific, teaching or cultural activities funded exclusively by foreigners. The bill, approved by 416 lawmakers, 116 more than required, is another step toward reducing the influence of foreign financiers in Russia. The document also prohibits Cabinet members from sitting on the management or trustee boards of foreign nongovernmental organizations and their Russia-based affiliates. Foreign-funded NGOs have faced growing resistance from the Kremlin since a wave of popular revolutions swept across the former Soviet Union, installing pro-Western leaders in Georgia and Ukraine. The State Duma also adopted in its third reading a bill introducing similar restrictions for a number of civil and municipal servants, including the head of the Audit Chamber and his deputies, the Central Bank's chairman, customs officials, police, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, prosecutors, judges, and others. In January, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who leads the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in the lower house, 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 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.
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