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Russian Activist Says She's Been Charged Under 'Undesirable Organization' Law

Yana Antonova holds a sign reading: "Freedom to political prisoners of Krasnodar region".
Yana Antonova holds a sign reading: "Freedom to political prisoners of Krasnodar region".

An activist in southern Russia says she has been charged with belonging to an "undesirable organization"’ as the state continues its crackdown against people associated with a rights group backed by a former oil tycoon.

Yana Antonova is one of several former members of Open Russia -- a civil rights organization connected to Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- that have come under investigation since January.

Investigators raided her apartment earlier this year. There was no immediate confirmation of the charges on the Investigative Committee's website.

In a Facebook post on May 21, Antonova denied committing any crimes, saying the law on "undesirable" organizations violates the Russian Constitution. She said her trial is scheduled to start soon.

The “undesirable organization” law, adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations who received funding from foreign sources.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office declared Open Russia "undesirable” in 2017. Those who support the group have come under “increasing pressure” from the authorities, Human Rights Watch said in March.

On January 21, law enforcement agents in Rostov-on-Don, Kazan, and Ulyanovsk raided the homes of nine activists, including Anastasia Shevchenko, affiliated with Open Russia. Shevchenko, a single mother of three, was placed under house arrest but allowed at the last minute to see her ill daughter shortly before she died.

Open Russia was launched by Khodorkovsky, who was Russia's richest man until he was arrested in 2003 on charges of tax evasion that he and his supporters called politically motivated. Khodorkovsky was released from prison in 2013 and resides abroad.

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