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Two Pussy Riot Members, Two RFE/RL Journalists Added To Russia's 'Foreign Agents' List

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Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina (file photo)

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Veronika Nikulshina, two members of the Pussy Riot protest group, have been added to Russia's controversial "foreign agents" list, which is used by the government to label what it says are foreign-funded organizations that are engaged in political activity, as well as people linked to them.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

The Justice Ministry said in a statement on December 30 that two journalists connected to RFE/RL -- Yelena Vladykina and Ivan Belyaev -- were also placed on the "foreign agents" list in an update that added a total of eight people. With the update, the list now comprises 111 entities and individuals.

"This decision was made on the basis of documents received from authorized government bodies. In particular, according to the information received, these persons systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funding," the ministry said in the statement.

Vladykina is a journalist with North.Realities, of RFE/RL's Russian Service, while Belyaev is a social media editor for RFE/RL's Russian Service.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said the Kremlin's "assault on the truth" would not succeed.

"This targeting of more @RFERL journalists from @SvobodaRadio and @severrealii will not deter us from our mission of providing objective information to Russian audiences," Fly said on Twitter.

He also issued a statement saying the addition of two more RFE/RL journalists to the foreign agents lists brings to 18 the number of Russian citizens working for RFE/RL "who have been falsely labeled in this way."

Yaroslavl filmmaker Andrei Alekseev; Marat Gelman, a former deputy director of Channel One and former member of the Public Chamber of Russia; Taisiya Bekbulatova, editor in chief of the magazine Kholod; and Viktor Shenderovich, a columnist for The New Times, were also added to the list.

The Pussy Riot performance-art collective came to prominence after some of its member were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a stunt in which they burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin, who was prime minister and campaigning for his return to the presidency at the time.

In another protest, Pussy Riot members -- including Nikulshina -- interrupted the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow between France and Croatia by running onto the field wearing fake police uniforms.

The "foreign agents" laws require those designated to register with the authorities and label their content with an intrusive disclaimer, with criminal fines for not doing so.

The designation also restricts other media from citing a "foreign agent" organization without including a disclaimer.

The "foreign agents" label has led to several NGOs, media organizations, and other groups to shut down as they lose revenues from advertisers.

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