MOSCOW - Russia's parliament approved a law on Wednesday to tighten controls on civil rights groups, branding those funded from abroad as "foreign agents", in a measure that foes of President Vladimir Putin say is meant to stifle the opposition.

Snubbing criticism of the bill by the United States, the Kremlin-controlled upper house of parliament overwhelmingly backed the bill, with just one vote against and one abstention, speeding its passage in its last session before a summer break.

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