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Russia Adds Alliance Of Doctors To 'Foreign Agent' List

Updated

Anastasia Vasilyeva from the Alliance Of Doctors

MOSCOW -- Russia’s Justice Ministry has added the professional medical organization Alliance Of Doctors to its controversial list of organizations fulfilling the functions of a “foreign agent.”

The ministry announced the decision on March 3, saying it had determined the NGO had received foreign funding and was engaged in political activity. It did not offer any specifics.

The Alliance Of Doctors is headed by ophthalmologist Anastasia Vasilyeva, who has treated opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in the past. The organization, founded in 2018, fights for fair wages and working conditions for medical professionals. Vasilyeva was detained by police for several days in January as part of a sweep by authorities on the eve of unsanctioned mass rallies against the Kremlin critic's arrest.

On March 2, lawyer Pavel Chikov of the Agora legal-defense organization announced that the ministry had filed a complaint against the NGO Nasiliyu.net, one of Russia’s leading organizations addressing domestic violence. Nasiliyu.net had been added to the “foreign agent” list in December 2020.

According to Chikov, the government has deemed that the activity of Nasiliyu.net in "publicizing the problem of domestic violence," "creating conditions so that victims know where to turn for help," and "participating in promoting and conducting campaigns aimed at adopting a law against family and domestic violence" must be considered "political activity" under the country’s "foreign agent" laws.

The government also deemed the NGO's public calls for government agencies "to take measures to protect victims of domestic violence" during the coronavirus pandemic to be "political activity."

The complaint also notes that Nasiliyu.net’s website includes contact information to the Anna domestic-violence crisis center, which has also been listed as a "foreign agent" organization.

Chikov said the government also listed as "political activity" the NGO’s participation in a 2019 sanctioned demonstration against gender discrimination and domestic violence held to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, although the Justice Department's complaint notes the event "took place without any disturbance to public order."

The ministry is asking a court to fine Nasiliyu.net from 300,000 to 500,000 rubles ($4,000 to $6,800). In addition, the ministry is seeking a fine of up to 300,000 rubles against the NGO's director, Anna Rivina.

Nasiliyu.net was founded in 2015 and was registered as an NGO in 2018. In December 2020, it was listed as a "foreign agent" organization, a designation that it is appealing in court.

When Nasiliyu.net was included on the list, Rivina wrote on Facebook that "95 percent" of the reason why the organization was targeted was "because of our draft law on domestic violence and 5 percent because of our support for LGBT rights.”

Russia's so-called foreign agent legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

Human Rights Watch has described the foreign agent legislation as "restrictive" and intended "to demonize independent groups."

With reporting by Kommersant
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