The latest prong in the Kremlin’s attack on civil society is the introduction of a new bill which would class NGOs as ‘foreign agents’, essentially implying that these institutions which are, for the most part, attempting to improve the lives of citizens in Russia, might be run by spies (!) Rachel Denber, the Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch has decried the proposal and offers a detailed account of how it will stymy the work of these valuable organizations:
Human Rights Watch said that if it were adopted in its current form, the draft law would expand already extensive and intrusive state control over organizations that receive foreign funding and foreign NGOs. Those groups would have to commission costly, full audits annually, report on substantive work twice a year, and report on financial activities on a quarterly basis.
The actual reporting forms will be developed by relevant authorities. Human Rights Watch said that judging by past experience, they are likely to be detailed and burdensome.
In addition, special reporting requirements and control measures will apply to all wire transfers valued above 200,000 rubles (US$ 6194) received by NGOs from foreign sources. The law provides for no limitation on the number of ad hoc checks and audits that the Ministry of Justice and other state agencies could carry out in relation to foreign-funded NGOs and foreign groups. At the same time, harsh sanctions are proposed for non-compliance with relevant regulations by both organizations and their leaders: fines of up to 50,000 roubles for individuals and up to 1,000,000 roubles for NGOs for failure to submit periodic reports and other information; fines of up to 500,000 roubles for individuals and up to 1,000,000 roubles for organizations for failure to register as “foreign agent”; a criminal penalty of up to two years of custody for individuals in charge of organizations that allow serious breaches of the “foreign agents” regulations.
Read their whole statement here.