U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se, not pictured, at the State Department in Washington, on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
MOSCOW (AP) — Leading Russian activists say U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has assured them that Washington is concerned about a crackdown on Russian nongovernmental organizations that have received U.S. funding.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Tania Lokshina, one of nine activists who met with Kerry on Wednesday, said he told them he had been up until 2:30 a.m. discussing the legal pressure on NGOs with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Russia is pushing to enforce a new law that requires all NGOs funded from abroad that engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as "foreign agents," a label with connotations of espionage. The law is part of a broad effort by President Vladimir Putin to stifle dissent.
Prosecutors have raided hundreds of groups in recent months.
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