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The Crackdown On NGOs In Russia

In March, Russian prosecutors launched a wave of inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) across the country. Human rights organizations are not the only groups to have undergone spot audits -- environmental and public-health organizations, and even language schools, have also been targeted. Russian authorities say they are checking compliance with a new law forcing groups that receive foreign funding and are deemed to engage in political activities to register as "foreign agents." Several organizations have already been fined under the legislation. Some groups have been asked to register as "foreign agents" without penalties or have been formally advised to register as such if they envisage political activities in the future. Others are still awaiting a decision.

Where And How NGOs Are Inspected

Nongovernmental organizations have undergone checks by prosecutors and Justice Ministry officials, but also by tax, fire, sanitary, and housing inspectors. Human rights organizations are not the only groups to have undergone spot audits. Environmental and public health organizations, and even language schools, have also been targeted. The inspections are being conducted nationwide.

"They are asking for a measles vaccination certificate for a 68-year-old secretary."
(Antidiscrimination Center Memorial, St. Petersburg)

"They were interested in details such as measurements of insulation levels and documents confirming that the ventilation system had been cleaned of chimney dust."
(Citizens Watch, St. Petersburg)

"They presented us with a long list of documents to submit urgently, were listed in alphabetical order."
(LGBT film festival Side by Side, St. Petersburg)

"One of the students from a language course said that he was asked why he took up French and whether he was planning to emigrate to France."
(Alliance Française, Samara)

"FSB officials forced ecology activists to long into their e-mail accounts and spent a long time studying the messages. They were particularly interested in e-mails concerning the Sochi Olympics."
(Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, Maykop)

"A journalist with a camera tried to enter the offices, she is now stationed in the hallway."
(Agency for Social Information, St. Petersburg)

"Two correspondents from Golos said they were summoned to the tax inspectorate. They were asked about their acquaintances in Moscow and in other regions and about their salaries during the elections."
(Golos Association, Saratov)

"When I asked the representatives of the Prosecutor's Office why they could not simply collect the information from public sources, they answered that they do not have access to the Internet."
(Press Development Institute-Siberia, Novosibirsk)

Such statements offer a clear illustration of the inspection process.

This map was created in cooperation with the Agora International Human Right Association, which keeps track of inspections by prosecutors.

View Russian NGOS Checklist in a larger map


Noncompliance with the law on "foreign agents" carries the following penalties:
-- a fine of up to 300,000 rubles or amounting to the salary or other income perceived over a period of up to two years, or
-- compulsory labor for up to 480 hours, or
-- correctional labor for up to two years, or
-- a prison term of up to two years

No criminal case has been opened so far.


Organizations are found guilty of not registering as a "foreign agent." They are fined up to 500,000 rubles and their directors up to 300,000 rubles.

Golos (Moscow)

Fined 300,000 rubles for failing to register as "foreign agent." Golos director Lilia Shibanova was fined 100,000 rubles.

Regional public organization Golos (Moscow)

Fined 300,000 rubles. Director Roman Udot was not charged. The organization's project on the Russian Electoral Code was deemed to amount to political activity.

Kostroma Center for the Support of Public Initiatives (Kostroma)

Fined 300,000 rubles on May 29. Director Aleksandr Zamoryanov was fined 100,000 rubles.

Antidiscrimination Center Memorial (St. Petersburg)

The prosecutor's office for St. Petersburg's Admiralty district opened an administrative case against the group on April 30.

LGBT film festival Side by Side (St. Petersburg)

On May 24, judges asked prosecutors to provide documents authorizing the inspection. The next hearings are scheduled for June 6.

LGBT organization Coming Out (St. Petersburg)

A court has asked prosecutors for documents authorizing the inspection. The next hearings are scheduled for June 11.


Organizations are asked to "remedy violations" -- in other words, to register as "foreign agents" within a month.

Public Verdict foundation (Moscow)

The foundation says it has received such a request. All its activities have been recognized as political.

Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk)

The environmental organization has received a request dated April 23.

Human Rights Center Memorial (Moscow)

Request dated April 29.

Agora (Kazan)

Request dated April 30.

Panorama information and research center (Moscow)

The think tank has received a request dated May 6.


Organizations receive a warning that they need to register as "foreign agents" if they plan to engage in "political activity" or receive foreign funding in the future.

Committee of Soldier's Mothers of Russia, Kostroma branch (Kostroma)

Warning received.

Yaroslavl regional Hunters and Fishermen Society (Yaroslavl)

Warning dated April 16.

Volgograd Center for NGO Support (Volgograd)

Warning dated April 22.

Interregional Committee against Torture (Nizhny Novgorod)

Warning dated April 22.

Community Foundation Kaliningrad (Kaliningrad)

Warning dated April 23.

Man and Law (Yoshkar-Ola)

Warning dated April 24.

Press Development Institute-Siberia (Novosibirsk)

Warning dated April 24.

Russian Socio-Ecological Union, Amur branch (Blagoveshchensk)

Warning dated April 24.

Memorial, Ryazan branch (Ryazan)

Warning dated April 24.

Urals -- Voice foundation (Chelyabinsk)

Warning dated April 25.

Citizens Watch (St. Petersburg)

Warning dated April 25.

Urals Democratic Foundation (Chelyabinsk)

Warning dated April 25.

Transparency International Russia (Moscow)

Warning dated April 26.

Komi Human Rights Commission Memorial (Syktyvkar)

Warning dated April 27.

Kirov regional Society of Hunters and Fishermen (Kirov)

Warning dated April 29.

Ural Human Rights Group (Chelyabinsk)

Warning dated April 29.

Muraviovka Park For Sustainable Land Use (Blagoveshchensk)

Warning dated April 30.

Levada Center (Moscow)

Warning dated May 15.

For Nature (Chelyabinsk)

Green House (Khabarovsk)

Siberian Environmental Center (Novosibirsk)

SPOK (Petrozavodsk)

Kola Environmental Center (Murmansk)

Kola Biodiversity Conservation Center (Murmansk)

Amur Environmental Club Ulukitkan (Blagoveshchensk)

Phoenix Fund (Vladivostok)

School of Soul Ecology Tengri (Gorno-Altaysk)

Protected Natural Association of the Altai Republic (Gorno-Altaysk)

AmurSoES (Blagoveshchensk)

Eige environmental education center (Yakutsk)