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Saturday, February 24, 2007

More Craven Kremlin Attacks on Helpless NGOs

Why can't the Kremlin pick on somebody it's own size? The only answer is cowardice. The Moscow Times reports that yet another defenseless NGO has fallen under the cowardly sword of the malignant little bully-troll who occupies the Kremlin:

North Ossetian police seized two computers and documents Wednesday in the Vladikavkaz office of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, a British nongovernmental organization, said IWPR's coordinator in the North Caucasus, Valery Dzutsev.

The raid came a month after police opened a criminal investigation into Dzutsev on suspected tax evasion.

The North Ossetian police investigator leading the case, Aslan Torchinov, said by telephone from Vladikavkaz that he had no comment on the case.

Dzutsev, who has contributed to The Moscow Times as a freelance journalist, said that he had paid his taxes and that the case seemed to be part of a campaign of intimidation.

"The problems with the authorities began a month after the NGO law went into effect last April," he said.

IWPR, an NGO with a global outreach, has trained journalists in the Caucasus since the late 1990s. Its Vladikavkaz office opened in 2002, and Dzutsev has headed it since then. It is now trying to re-register with authorities as required by the NGO law.

"We are shocked and surprised by this development, and we give our full support to our coordinator, Valery Dzutsev, who has acted completely honestly within Russian law," IWPR executive director Tony Borden said in a statement.

The investigation looks like an attempt to silence both a foreign NGO training journalists and an information outlet, said Nina Ognianova, a representative of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

"By using the law as a pretext, authorities are incapacitating the Vladikavkaz office," she said, referring to seized computers.

IWPR journalists file reports about local issues.

Dzutsev said investigators told him to show up at their office next week as they will look through the seized documents and computers.

Last year, IWPR's senior editor, Tom de Waal, was denied a Russian visa without explanation.

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