Why the Kremlin Is Targeting NGOs

03 Apr 2013

(Moscow Times) The authorities have initiated an unprecedented campaign against nongovernmental organizations, conducting burdensome inspections of their offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Perm, Krasnodar, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don and dozens of other cities. Reports from more than two dozen regions indicate that hundreds of human rights, religious, educational and cultural organizations had been subjected to checks, including both Russian entities and the offices of foreign organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Alliance Francaise and a number of German foundations.

In each case, an entire brigade descends on an NGO: representatives of law enforcement agencies, the prosecutor's office, the Justice Ministry, the special police division charged with fighting extremism, the FSB, the Federal Tax Service, the fire safety directorate, the labor directorate and the migration service. Prosecutors demand that the organization produce a large number of documents, sometimes covering as much as the past three years of its activities.

The Prosecutor General's Office initially explained that the inspections were the result of the new law on "foreign agents" that went into force on Nov. 21. However, that law cannot be applied retroactively, and the explanation still does not reveal why investigators are digging so deeply into NGO activities. The authorities later offered the explanation that they are checking NGOs for possible extremist activity. [...]

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