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Russian NGO Defending Conscripts' Rights Ceases Activities, Fearing Persecution


The Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg NGO had been working to defend the rights of conscripts and servicemen in the Russian Army for 30 years. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A Russian nongovernmental organization that has defended the rights of conscripts in the Russian Army for more than two decades says it has ceased its activities because it faces possible persecution from the authorities.

Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg made the announcement on October 5, citing "serious restrictions" imposed by Russia's main domestic security service on the group’s activities.

The move comes days after the Federal Security Service (FSB) published a 60-point list of nonsecret topics that could result in people or organizations being designated as "foreign agents" if they cover or write about them, and face criminal prosecution.

The document is the latest in a widening net of restrictions under a nine-year-old law that has been used to target independent media outlets, civil society groups, rights activists, and others.

Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg was established in the 1990s.

"We clearly understand that at this moment neither the state nor society needs our work,” the NGO said in its statement.

"The state has chosen a different path of development, and society has found itself frightened and has to comply" with new realities.

The FSB list, dated September 28, includes broad topics, such as collecting information about "the moral-psychological climate inside the armed forces, investigations of crimes in the military, as well as "the location, numbers, and armaments" of military forces, military purchases, and contracts.

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