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Jailed Russian Activist Fined Over 'Foreign Agent' Law

Andrei Pivovarov stands behind the glass during a court hearing in Krasnodar on June 2.
Andrei Pivovarov stands behind the glass during a court hearing in Krasnodar on June 2.

The jailed former executive director of the pro-democracy Open Russia movement has been fined for failing to provide details of a group he established in 2017 that was added to the "foreign agents" registry.

A court in St. Petersburg on June 23 fined Andrei Pivovarov 50,000 rubles ($685) and his organization, Open Petersburg, 150,000 rubles ($2,050).

Pivovarov was detained in late May and placed in pretrial detention for two months after he was removed from a Warsaw-bound plane in St. Petersburg.

He said earlier that in December the Justice Ministry labeled the Open Petersburg educational group that he established in 2017 as a "foreign agent."

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.

On June 2, a court in the southern city of Krasnodar ruled that Pivovarov should be held for two months after he was accused of publishing a post on social media supporting a local election candidate last year on behalf of Open Russia, which was labeled an "undesirable" organization in 2017.

Days after Pivovarov's arrest, on June 7, the former chairman of Open Russia, Aleksandr Solovyov, left Russia for Ukraine, saying he feared for his safety.

Open Russia was financed by Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin's rule.

The organization associated with Pivovarov was based in Russia and no longer legally connected with the London-based group with the same name that ended operations in 2017.

Leaders of the Russian-based Open Russia dissolved the group in late May after it was designated an "undesirable" organization in order to protect its supporters from further "harassment" by the Russian authorities.

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 that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
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