German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday for a more open civil society in Russia as Moscow's treatment of international non-governmental organizations overshadowed Putin's visit to Germany.
Merkel did not shy away from addressing Russia's recent actions against NGOs operating in the country as the two leaders opened a joint trade show in the north-central German city of Hanover.
A healthy economy depends upon an open atmosphere in a pluralistic society, Merkel said, pointing to the need for an "active civil society."
"We must intensify this discussion to further develop our mutual agenda and to give a good chance to NGOs, including the many groups that we know in German as motors of innovation," Merkel said.
A law that went into effect last year forces NGOs to register as foreign agents if they receive international financial support and sets stringent penalties, including the possibility of jail, for those who do not disclose their funding. The move has hit German NGOs as well as those from other nations.
Merkel had registered her displeasure ahead of the trade show in a phone call with Putin and asked to discuss the issue further during his visit. The Russian leader has long faced accusations of violating human rights and blocking democratic developments in his country.
Putin did not address the topic in his remarks.
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