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Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Russian authorities have taken further action against the network of exiled former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The State Prosecutor's Office on June 30 labeled four organizations linked to the Kremlin critic as “undesirable,” effectively banning their activities in Russia.

The four nongovernmental organizations are the U.K.-registered Khodorkovsky Foundation, its subsidiary the Oxford Russia Fund, the London-based Future of Russia Foundation, and the French organization European Choice.

The organizations “pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation,” the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

The "undesirable" organization law, adopted in May 2015 and since updated, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States.

The Khodorkovsky Foundation supports educational projects in Russia, and the Oxford Russian Foundation distributes scholarships to students. The two other organizations are also involved in educational projects.

The former head of the oil company Yukos, Khodorkovsky is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wealthiest opponents.

He currently lives in the Britain after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Putin's rule.

Several Khodorkovsky-linked organizations have been banned or otherwise targeted in recent years under so-called “foreign agent” laws, including the pro-democracy Open Russia movement.

On June 28, Putin signed into law a bill that expands the scope of the “undesirable” law to include criminalizing participation in the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations recognized as such in Russia.

Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka

Germany has deplored Belarus’s decision to demand an end to all activities of two prominent German educational institutions after the European Union imposed economic sanctions on Belarus.

"We regret the decision of the Belarusian side," a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said on June 30 about the decision affecting the Goethe-Institute, which promotes the German language and culture worldwide, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid a brutal crackdown on protesters. The West refuses to recognize him as the country's legitimate leader after an August 2020 election considered fraudulent.

The spokesman said Belarus's action was a response to the EU’s latest sanctions against the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, which has been under international pressure since it launched a brutal crackdown on the political opposition and independent media in the wake of a disputed election in August 2020.

The opposition says that election was rigged, while the European Union, the United States, and other countries have refused to recognize the official results of the vote and do not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.

The German Foreign Ministry said Minsk’s latest move will “contribute to further isolating Belarus internationally.”

“The victims of this decision are Belarusian citizens, who are being denied further opportunities for social and cultural activity,” it said, adding that the Goethe-Institute and DAAD “have enabled cultural and academic bridges between Germany, Europe, and Belarus for decades.”

The ministry renewed its call for the Belarusian authorities “to enter a serious and inclusive national dialogue and discuss the legitimate demands of the protest movement.”

Last week, the EU sanctioned key sectors of the Belarusian economy and major revenue sources for Lukashenka’s regime following the forced diversion of a passenger flight to Minsk in May that allowed for the arrest of dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend.

In response, Belarus recalled its representative to the EU for consultations, announced a travel ban on unspecified EU officials, and said it was suspending its participation in the bloc’s Eastern Partnership program.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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