Russia

People in Need to close its North Caucasus office

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By Adam Havlin
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - The renowned Czech humanitarian organization People in Need (PIN) has been forced to close its mission in the North Caucasus, which has been in operation since the beginning of 2000.

In a press release issued yesterday, the organization said its decision reflected "systematic pressure from Russian authorities, who in April 2005 denied PIN's request to renew its accreditation for work in the Russian Federation".

The organization has been under Russian pressure for the last nine months, when according to the head of the Caucasian mission, Marek Vozka, the Russian authorities started carrying out "extensive controls at the mission, from hygiene to work safety".

In addition, disinformation appeared recently in the Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, in which the author indirectly accused the Czech humanitarian organization of financial irregularities, collaborating with rebels, and disobeying Russian laws.

The authorities' pressure against the charity has culminated with their refusal to renew the registration required to carry out activities in Russia.

People in Need immediately reapplied for registration, an answer to which is expected within the coming three months. The organization has transferred a few of its projects to local organizations. However, a significant amount of its activities have had to be put on ice.

People in Need has so far been active in several districts of Grozny, as well as in mountainous areas of Chechnya and in Ingushetia. The charity is considered one of the leading organizations active in the North Caucasus. The organization raised some 600 million Czech crowns (24 million dollars) since 2000.

Apart from distributing food and reconstructing homes, People in Need also provided a network of schools in refugee camps located in Ingushetia, and organized after-school activities and psycho-social assistance.

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