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Russian NGO For Domestic Violence, LGBT Issues Facing Eviction Under 'Foreign Agent' Designation


Anna Rivina, the director of Nasiliyu.Net

One of Russia's leading organizations addressing domestic violence and LGBT rights, Nasiliyu.Net, is facing eviction from its Moscow office three months after being placed on Moscow's controversial "foreign agent" list.

Anna Rivina, the head of the NGO, wrote on Facebook on March 8 that the landlord had requested the group to vacate the premises within a month.

Rivina said her team moved last summer into the premises, where they speak with domestic-violence victims and hold support sessions and educational events.

The landlord initially requested the group to vacate the office in 10 days in early February, she said, before then giving the NGO to the end of March to leave.

In late December 2020, Russia's Justice Ministry added the group to its controversial list of organizations fulfilling the functions of a "foreign agent," saying that the NGO had received foreign funding and was engaged in political activity.

Lawyer Pavel Chikov of the Agora legal defense organization said on March 2 that the government had filed a complaint against Nasilyu.net, saying the group's activity in "publicizing the problem of domestic violence," "creating conditions so that victims know where to turn for help," and "participating in promoting and conducting campaigns aimed at adopting a law against family and domestic violence" must be considered "political activity" under the "foreign agent" laws.

The government also deemed the NGO's public calls for government agencies "to take measures to protect victims of domestic violence" during the coronavirus pandemic to be "political activity."

"We were directly told [by the landlord] that our activities do not suit them and therefore we have a month to vacate the premises," Rivina said, adding the organization currently didn't have an alternate location.

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.

Human Rights Watch has described the "foreign agent" legislation as "restrictive" and intended "to demonize independent groups."

Chikov said the government also listed as "political activity" the NGO's participation in a 2019 sanctioned demonstration against gender discrimination and domestic violence held to mark International Women's Day on March 8, although the Justice Department's complaint notes the event "took place without any disturbance to public order."

Rivina wrote on Facebook that when Nasiliyu.net was included on the list, "95 percent" of the reason why the organization was targeted was "because of our draft law on domestic violence and 5 percent because of our support for LGBT rights."

The ministry has asked a court to fine Nasiliyu.net from 300,000 to 500,000 rubles ($4,000 to $6,800). In addition, it is seeking a fine of up to 300,000 rubles against Rivina.

Nasiliyu.net was founded in 2015 and was registered as an NGO in 2018.

Later modifications to the "foreign agent" law have targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

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