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Russia further tightens restrictions on ‘foreign agent’ nonprofits: labelled groups must send annual reports to Justice Ministry

Russia further tightens restrictions on ‘foreign agent’ nonprofits: labelled groups must send annual reports to Justice Ministry
Russia has further tightened its law regarding organizations deemed to be ‘foreign agents,’ this time hugely increasing the annual reporting requirements for nonprofits that have been designated by the Ministry of Justice.

The new rules, which came into force on Monday but were passed earlier this year, mean that targeted organizations must report yearly to Moscow on their work and finances, as well as events held. They are also now banned from being based in residential premises. As well as detailing all monies received, the nonprofits must also describe the exact sources of their funding and note planned expenditures.

The law also means that the Justice Ministry will study the work of each NGO and can ban certain activities it dislikes, such as particular projects or programs.

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All foreign agent nonprofits have received the designation because they receive funding from foreign sources.

Some of the NPOs listed on the foreign-agent registry include Transparency International, the Memorial Human Rights Center, and domestic violence prevention group Nasiliyu.

According to Tatyana Glushkova, the head of Memorial, the new law will make the situation “significantly worse” as the authorities can ban any activities on any grounds. Speaking to Meduza, another registered foreign agent, she also explained that small nonprofits will be hit the hardest, mainly due to reporting requirements.

“Any delay in submitting a report, even by one day, threatens a fine of 100,000 rubles (about $1,315) or more,” she explained. “Being labeled as a foreign agent means that a significant portion of their small budget will be spent on fulfilling the requirements of this very law.”

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Russia’s foreign agent laws have regularly been changed and tightened since the first draft passed in 2012. Just last week, the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB) released a new list of reasons for foreign agent designation, including reporting on the Russian space agency and the military-industrial complex.

Last year, President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing individuals, and not just organizations, to be deemed as foreign agents. According to the bill, citizens who receive foreign funding for political activities can be given the status.

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