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Russian NGOs Subjected To Continuing Searches

Amnesty International's Sergei Nikitin
Amnesty International's Sergei Nikitin

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Hundreds Of Russian NGOs Searched

Russian authorities searched the offices of hundreds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on March 21 and the following day, including those of Memorial, one of the country's oldest rights organizations.
By RFE/RL
Searches of nongovernmental organizations are continuing in Russia, including Amnesty International's office in the capital.

The head of Amnesty International in Moscow, Sergei Nikitin, confirmed an “unplanned search” of the organization’s premises was under way.

"On Monday morning [March 25], three people from the Moscow prosecutor's office and one person from the tax office came to our office and presented a list of documents they wanted to obtain copies of," Nikitin said.

Nikitin said journalists arrived to report on the search shortly after the investigators appeared.

"Just 15 minutes after [the prosecution and tax officials'] arrival, people who presented themselves as NTV journalists rang our bell," he said. "Of course, they were refused entry to our offices."

The Russian movement For Human Rights said its office is also being searched.

ALSO READ: Russian Authorities Raid 'Thousands' Of NGOs

One of the leaders of the movement, Aleksandr Bukvarev, said representatives of the prosecutor’s office, tax police, and the Justice Ministry showed up on March 25.

"We are not going to give them any documents," Bukvarev said. "They checked us not long ago and all the documents are at the Justice Ministry."
 
The head of the For Human Rights movement, Lev Ponomaryov, has sent a letter to Moscow prosecutor Sergei Kudeneyev complaining that the search of the organization’s office is illegal.

Ponomaryov’s letter notes the search of his group’s office is permissible "only if there is information about the organization violating existing laws and no grounds for [such accusations] were presented to us.”

Hundreds of NGOs across Russia reportedly have been searched in the past week, including the offices of Memorial, one of Russia's oldest rights organizations.

Amnesty International released a statement on March 22 saying the wave of recent inspections of NGOs in Russia “is intensifying pressure on civil society since the adoption of a series of restrictive laws in 2012.”

Legislation came into effect on November 21, 2012, that requires NGOs which receive foreign funding to register as "foreign agents."

Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement that government investigators have inspected at least 30 organizations in Moscow in the last two weeks and many more in at least 13 other regions of Russia.

Amnesty International said the inspections appear to target groups that accept foreign funding, engage in advocacy work, and are part of a broader crackdown that started in 2012.

The Amnesty International statement cited media reports that “the prosecutor’s office in St. Petersburg alone plans to inspect about 100 groups.”

The Justice Ministry has said it wants to determine if foreign funding for the NGOs complies with laws passed last year.

With reporting by Interfax and zaprava.ru

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