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Russian Authorities Examining Branch Of Memorial Under 'Foreign Agent' Law

The international branch of the human rights group Memorial says Russian authorities have begun a surprise audit to determine whether it should be designated as a "foreign agent."

Memorial says the Justice Ministry, acting on orders from the Prosecutor-General's Office, began the check on September 5.

Another branch of the widely respected Moscow-based organization, the Memorial Human Rights Center, was placed on the government's register of "foreign agents" in November 2015.

The new move comes as the Justice Ministry announced on September 5 that it had placed independent pollster Levada Center on the register, potentially threatening its existence.

A 2012 law requires any NGO that receives funding from abroad and engages in political activity to formally register as a "foreign agent."

Russian and international human rights organizations have said the law was introduced to silence independent voices.

Amendments introduced to the law in 2014 allow the Justice Ministry to forcefully add NGOs to the list of "foreign agents." Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and/or jail time.