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Russia searches hundreds of rights groups, NGOs

MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors are conducting wide-ranging checks of hundreds of private agencies as part of what rights activists say are President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to stifle dissent and shield the nation from perceived Western influence.

The inspections and searches have targeted up to 2,000 organizations since last month, said Pavel Chikov, a member of the presidential human rights council. The action followed Putin’s speech in February before senior officers of the FSB, the main KGB successor agency, in which he urged them to focus attention on groups that receive foreign funding used to ‘‘put pressure on Russia.’’

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A team of prosecutors, Justice Ministry officials, and tax police spent most of the day Thursday searching the Moscow offices of Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most respected human rights groups.

Officials wouldn’t comment on the purpose of the visit, but Arseniy Roginsky of Memorial said it could be linked to a recently passed law requiring all nongovernmental organizations with foreign funding that engage in political activities to register as ‘‘foreign agents.’’

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