/ Agencies) - Strict checks are being carried out by the Russian authorities on
the "non-commercial organizations" present in the country which also
include the Catholic Church. On
April 4, the director of Caritas center of St. Petersburg, Natalya Pevtsova,
reported that inspectors sent by the prosecutor and by the tax bureau, along
with officials of the Institute for Consumer Rights (Rospotrebnadzor),
conducted an inspection at the offices Catholic
organization in the capital of the North. She
relays that the employees and volunteers present were shocked. "They
checked everything from the condition of our toilet, to the documents relating
to charitable activities," added Pevtsova.
The agents took away some papers and promised to communicate the results of the inspection on April 8.
The initiative of the authorities is part of wider testing conducted last month on nongovernmental organizations financed from abroad, under the law passed last year that requires them to register as "foreign agents."
Human rights activists have denounced the crackdown as a move by the Kremlin to silence civil society.
In St. Petersburg, the controls began on March 19 and are officially aimed at checking the presence of extremists or terrorists and health and safety standards of the structures. There are 5 thousand NGOs In the city of the Czars, as reported by Interfax.
Meanwhile, a small Catholic parish in Novocherkassk in southern Russia, was among the first victims of the wave of inspections. The church has been sentenced for violation of fire regulations. The parish priest, Father Alexei, must pay a fine of 675 euro. '' There are many possible explanations, it may be political or just another way to control the NGOs, but if the authorities want to solve the problem of fire regulations, they can do it in a completely different way,'' the priest pointed out, denouncing the excessive fine.
For now, there has been no official comment by the Episcopal Conference or by the bishops of the dioceses. (N.A.)