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Russia Brands European Vote-Monitoring Groups 'Undesirable' Ahead Of Election

An official prepares ballot boxes in Vladivostok for the March 18 presidential election.
An official prepares ballot boxes in Vladivostok for the March 18 presidential election.

The Russian government has blacklisted two European organizations involved in election monitoring, days ahead of the March 18 presidential vote.

On March 13, the Justice Ministry listed Germany's European Platform for Democratic Elections and Lithuania's International Elections Study Center as "undesirable organizations."

The ministry said the designations were based on legislation on "measures against individuals involved in the violation of basic human rights and freedoms" and on a March 12 decision by a deputy prosecutor-general.

Under a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2015 and widely criticized by rights groups, the government can brand foreign and international groups "undesirable organizations."

The legislation, which critics say is designed to prevent NGOs from promoting democratic institutions in Russia, enables the government to ban the organizations and launch criminal proceedings against Russian groups that work with them.

The ministry listing followed a March 12 report on Russian network REN-TV that accused international organizations monitoring elections, including the European Platform for Democratic Elections, of being tools for "secret methods to gain power" in Russia.

The Justice Ministry list now names 13 "undesirable" organizations, including Open Russia, the National Endowment for Democracy, Open Society Foundation, U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law, and others.

With reporting by REN-TV
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