Putin Addresses Crucial Issues of Crimea, NGOs in Meeting with the Federation Council
March 29, 2014 • 12:51PM

Among the several key issues that Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed in a meeting on Thursday with senior members of the Federation Council, were those related to the "two new constituent entities of the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol," the Kremlin website reported Friday.

This meeting was one of several the Russian leadership has been conducting on a daily basis, to integrate Crimea rapidly, and "to make sure that the people living in Crimea and Sevastopol feel as soon as possible that they are full-fledged citizens of the Russian Federation and begin to take part in our joint work," Putin underscored. He emphasized that legislation is needed quickly "that would provide for the social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol."

Almost daily, Russian TV has on-the-scene reports about people switching from hryvnias to rubles, getting their pensions—double the previous level in real terms—lining up around the block to apply for their Russian passports.

The Russian President hit the NGOs and "color revolutions" very hard, although he cautioned that the rights of civil society, particularly its right to legitimate and peaceful protest, must always be protected. Citizens "should always know that they have a set of tools, legal mechanisms they can use to make their discontent known to the authorities.... I would like to repeat that this should all be within the limits of the law."

But, he added, as for the "color revolutions," including "the latest developments in Ukraine," an analysis of this phenomenon "should be made to protect our citizens from arbitrary actions of all sorts of 'ultras,' terrorists and people with extremist views."

On NGOs, Putin cautioned that they are "a very important part of our civil society," and include many "decent people who perform an important function.... They often express the views of regular citizens and protect their interests where the authorities are inefficient. We should never forget this." However, he added, it is essential, at the same time, to "improve our rules, our laws and the legal base. As we have discussed with repreesentatives of the human rights community and parliamentarians, we need to specify the notion of political activity so that people whose activities have nothing to do with politics do not qualify as foreign as foreign agents.... We should not leave any loopholes for those who are protecting the interests of foreign states within Russia, rather than protecting the interest of citizens of the Russian Federation [emphasis added]. Here we have to carefully consider everything and calmly make decisions pertaining to the improvement of the legal base."