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Nothing so riles Western opinion about Russia today as its law on foreign agents.A follow-up measure in 2015, the Undesirable Organizations law, required any such NCO to identify itself publicly as a "foreign agent".What, after all, are the "functions of a foreign agent," in common parlance, except to serve the interests of a foreign power? Indeed, Russia's law effectively prevents NCOs not under state control from carrying out any activities in the country. First, the 2012 law was a direct response to the large public demonstrations that began the previous year in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities to protest Vladimir Putin's decision to stand for a third term as president, his election and his inauguration.It is a legacy still mired in the murky world of "front organizations": real "foreign agents," apparently independent and devoted to worthy causes, but secretly controlled from abroad.Anyone struggling to learn the Russian language soon runs up against its extraordinary opaqueness.Russia could make a cost-free concession, by limiting the registration of "foreign agents" to NCOs that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from non-Russian sources. This would unlock domestic funding, enabling such groups to operate in Russia.
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