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Russia passes law to tackle foreign meddling in its elections

Russia passes law to tackle foreign meddling in its elections
The Russian parliament has passed a law which says foreign organizations meddling in any kind of election in Russia may be declared ‘undesirable’ and ousted from the country. Election observers are exempt.

The law, passed on Tuesday, will make a small amendment to the legislation which regulates how a non-governmental organization (NGO) may be barred from operating in Russia.

The current rules say Russia may oust an NGO, which is considered a threat to Russia’s “constitutional order, defense or security”. The new piece of legislation, once signed into law, would clarify that such a threat may be posed by meddling in elections in Russia.

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The meddling is defined as promoting or obstructing candidates or issues for a referendum or affecting the outcome of a ballot, but does not include the activities or registered international observers monitoring the campaign.

Russia made the political activities of an NGO a valid reason for their removal in 2015. The decision to declare an organization ‘undesirable’ is taken by the general prosecutor or one of his or her deputies after consultations with the Foreign Ministry. An NGO targeted in this way has to shut down its offices in Russia, is barred from financial services and cannot legally publish its materials for Russian audiences.

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The list of organizations ousted from Russia under these rules includes US soft power peddlers like the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute as well as George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

Russian citizens and organizations acting on behalf of a banned foreign NGO may be fined. Repeat offenders face communal service and even prison terms of up to 6 years and a ban from holding a public office. But those who part ways with the NGO voluntarily get a pass and don’t face criminal charges.

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