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Yekaterina Rogatkina, the former president of the Saratov Regional Organization for Diabetics

A district court in the Russian city of Saratov has ruled that a local nongovernmental organization providing assistance to diabetics is a "foreign agent" and has imposed a fine of 300,000 rubles ($4,800).

The president of the Saratov Regional Organization for Diabetics (SROO), Larisa Saigina, and former SROO President Yekaterina Rogatkina were present when the court issued its ruling on May 28, ordering the organization to pay the fine within 60 days.

Saigina and Rogatkina told journalists they will appeal the ruling.

The charges were filed under a controversial 2012 law that requires NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaging in political activities to register as "foreign agents" and to regularly proclaim their status. Civil society advocates say the law is aimed at bolstering Kremlin control over Russian society.

The case began in August 2017 when a local medical student who is an activist with the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party complained to prosecutors that SROO received funding from foreign pharmaceutical companies.

Prosecutors commissioned local historian Ivan Konovalov to evaluate the organization and his report concluded that SROO "gives information to foreign partners about so-called sore spots in the region, particularly in the area of health care, that could be used to inflame protest tendencies in society."

SROO was founded more than three decades ago and has provided practical and informational assistance to more than 80,00 diabetics and their families.

With reporting by FreeNews-Volga and Current Time TV
Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko stands inside the defendants' cage during a hearing at a court in Moscow in November 2016.

Russian prosecutors are seeking a 14-year prison term for Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, who is on trial in Moscow on espionage charges in a case viewed by Kyiv and rights activists as politically motivated.

"The prosecution asked 14 years [in prison] for Roman Sushchenko," his lawyer, Mark Feigin wrote on Twitter on May 28, saying in a separate tweet that the Moscow City Court will announce its verdict in the case on June 4.

Russia's TASS news agency quoted a source at Sushchenko's closed-door trial at the Moscow City Court as saying that the prosecutor asked for 14 years of imprisonment for the reporter in a maximum-security correctional facility.

Ukraine reiterated its call for Sushchenko to be freed, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maryana Betsa calling him a “hostage to Russia's aggression."

The maximum sentence prosecutors could seek for the Ukrainian journalist was 20 years. Russian judges do not have to follow prosecutors' guidance on sentencing but rarely impose higher sentences than requested by the prosecution.

Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent for the Ukrinform news agency, was detained in Moscow in 2016 on suspicion of collecting classified information.

He pleaded not guilty at the start of his trial in March.

Kyiv and rights activists say Russia has jailed several Ukrainians on trumped-up, politically motivated charges since Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Feigin told the 112 Ukraine TV channel he did not rule out the possibility of Moscow wanting to exchange Sushchenko for the head of RIA Novosti's branch in Ukraine, Kirill Vyshinsky, who is accused by Ukrainian authorities of high treason.

That case has drawn harsh criticism from Moscow and expressions of concern from media watchdogs.

With reporting by TASS and AFP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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