US National Endowment for Democracy labeled ‘undesirable’ group under new law

© Jason Reed
Prosecutors have recognized NED’s activities in Russia as undesirable and undermining national security after the US NGO spent millions on attempts to question the legitimacy of Russian elections and tarnish the prestige of military service.

According to the release published on the Prosecutor General Office’s website deputy head of the agency Vladimir Malinovsky on Tuesday signed the decision to recognize as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation all activities of the foreign non-government organization the National Endowment for Democracy. On the same day this decision was forwarded to the Justice Ministry that must now include NED in the list of undesirable foreign organizations.

Prosecutors added in their report that the decision was based on the analysis of the endowment’s recent work. This analysis showed that it controlled some Russian commercial and non-commercial organizations and used them in campaigns aimed at recognizing the results of Russian polls illegitimate, influencing the authorities’ decisions through political actions and discrediting of the Russian military forces.

A police officer at the General Prosecutor's Office in Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street, Moscow. © Maksim Blinov

Foreign Ministry praises law banning undesirable foreign groups in Russia

The release reads that in 2013 and 2014 the National Endowment for Democracy rendered $5.2 million in financial aid to its Russian partners. According to RBC the endowment itself has earlier reported that in 2014 alone it satisfied 95 Russian applications for aid amounting to $8.4 million.

The National Endowment for Democracy, founded in 1983 on Ronald Reagan’s initiative, is sponsored by the US Congress and sees its main task as helping the democratic institutions all over the world. The Russian Justice Ministry has earlier recognized this organization as the most active provider of various grants in politics and politics-related spheres, such as sociology or political research.

The NED was also included in the very first draft of the ‘patriotic stop-list’ – the document approved by the Russian upper house that names the groups that the senators see as potential threat to security and want to be probed and, if these suspicions are confirmed, officially declared undesirable.

The bill on undesirable foreign organizations was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in late May. The new law allows the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to create a proscribed list of ‘undesirable foreign organizations’, making the activities of such groups in Russia illegal. The main criterion for putting a foreign or international NGO on the list is a “threat to the constitutional order and defense capability, or to the security of the Russian state.”

Non-compliance with the ban can be punished by administrative penalties, and for repeated and aggravated offenses can carry prison sentences of up to six years. Russian citizens and organizations that continue to work with banned groups would face administrative fines only.

As the sponsors of the bill faced criticism from the domestic and international rights community, they replied that it was more of a preventive measure and it was not targeting any particular organizations.

READ MORE: Upper house approves first list of 12 ‘undesirable’ foreign groups

In early July the Federation Council released a list of foreign organizations it plans to declare ‘undesirable’. The 12 entries in the document include the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Foundation, Freedom House and other major US-sponsored groups as well as two Ukrainian organizations.