View of the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Viktor Tolochko) / RIA Novosti
Foreign Ministry praises law banning undesirable foreign groups in Russia
Published time: 3 Jul, 2015 09:58
Russia’s deputy FM has told senators that the recently introduced law allowing automatic bans on groups that pose a threat to national security was a necessary step, adding that many such NGOs were in reality funded by foreign governments.
“We hold that the passing of the law on undesirable organizations was without any questions a step in the right direction,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said at the Friday session of the Federation Council. He added that the new law was a significant and much-needed follow-up to the “Foreign Agents Law” passed in 2012.
Gatilov also said that a long time ago the Russian Foreign Ministry had noticed that many organizations working abroad as NGOs were in reality funded by their home country’s governments.
At the same time, the deputy minister stated that recognizing certain organizations as undesirable must happen only after serious joint work of several state agencies, and such moves should target only particular groups, with detailed explanations at every step.
Next week, the Upper House of the Russian Parliament is scheduled to look into the list of organizations that can be listed as undesirable, according to prosecutors’ decisions. Russian media has reported that the preliminary list includes 15 groups, but has not disclosed any names.
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.
Foreign and international NGOs, as well as the Russian domestic rights community, criticized the new law as “exotic” and “shocking,” while the European Union and the United States have officially expressed their concern over the new Russian law. The US State Department said in a statement that the move banning cooperation with various foreign groups could bring about the isolation of the Russian people from the outside world.
Russian politicians who had prepared and promoted the bill replied that it was more of a preventive measure and it was not targeting any particular organizations.
The so-called “Foreign Agents Law” introduced in late 2012 orders all NGOs engaged in Russian politics and receiving any funding from abroad to register as foreign agents or risk substantial fines. Groups with “foreign agent” status are banned from sponsoring Russian political parties, but otherwise their activities are not restricted.
Communists want Soros Foundation branded ‘undesirable’ group
Published time: 4 Jun, 2015 11:31Edited time: 4 Jun, 2015 11:38
Two senior lawmakers from the Communist Party caucus have asked Russian prosecutors to use the recently introduced law on “undesirable” foreign groups against George Soros’s Open Society organization.
“The anti-Russian activities of Soros’s foundation must be recognized as undesirable before they assume the destructive forms that we could observe in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries,” MPs Valery Rashkin and Sergey Obukhov said, appealing to the Prosecutor General.
The Communist leaders claimed that the Open Society NGO had conducted “persistent anti-Russian activities for decades and that it happened both in Russia and in other countries. They said that the group was allegedly promoting hatred against Russians in Ukraine and also launched some “proxy subversive operations” in the Russian Federation.
In particular, the two MPs blamed George Soros’s NGO for the destruction of the Russian education system, manifested in the much-criticized system of single state exams for schoolchildren as well as underfinancing of schools and institutes.
The Law on Undesirable Foreign Groups that came into force earlier this week charges the Prosecutor General’s Office together with the Foreign Ministry with the task of creating an official list of “undesirable foreign organizations” and outlaw their activities in the country. The main criterion for putting a foreign or international NGO on the list is “the threat to the Constitutional order and the defense capability or security of the Russian State.”
Once the group is recognized as undesirable all its assets in Russia must be frozen, offices closed and distribution of any of its information materials must be banned. Violating the bill is punished with heavy fines both for the personnel of the banned organizations and Russian citizens who cooperate with them. A repeat offense can carry up to six years in prison.
From the moment it was drafted, the new law was sharply criticized by the Russian rights community, foreign NGOs and officials. The European Union and the United States have officially expressed their concern over it and warned that the move banning cooperation with various foreign groups could bring about the isolation of the Russian people from the outside world.
The two opposition MPs who originally drafted the bill have described it as a preventive measure and denied that it was targeting any specific foreign organizations.
The Open Society Institute, also known as the Soros Foundation after its main sponsor, US billionaire George Soros, has worked in Russia since 1995 and financed many projects in the humanitarian and educational spheres. In 2003, the organization stopped issuing direct grants and announced that it had stopped all Russian operations but to this day it maintains representative offices in Russia’s four largest cities – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Novosibirsk.
George Soros has openly admitted that his organizations played a key role in the so called “color revolutions” – forceful regime changes through violent political rallies – in many post-Soviet states, including Ukraine and Georgia.
Earlier this month a group of hackers from Ukraine released some leaked texts that show that Soros was still actively involved in the Ukrainian politics, advocating EU financial aid and military assistance to Ukraine to restore Kiev’s fighting capacity without violating the Minsk peace deal.