On the night before the “foreign agents” law came into force, unknown individuals sprayed graffiti reading, “Foreign Agent! ♥ USA” on the buildings hosting the offices of three prominent NGOs in Moscow, including Memorial.

 

Since June 5, 2014, the Ministry of Justice has designated 137 groups as “foreign agents”. By July 25, 2016, at least 21 groups have shut down. Also, the Ministry has removed its “foreign agent” tag from 12 groups, acknowledging that they had stopped accepting foreign funding. Accordingly, on July 25, 2016, the official list of active “foreign agents” comprised 104 groups. 

 

(Moscow) – In 2012 Russia’s parliament adopted a law that required nongovernmental organizations (NGO)s to register as "foreign agents" with the Ministry of Justice if they engage in “political activity” and receive foreign funding. The definition of “political activity” under the law is so broad and vague that it can extend to all aspects of advocacy and human rights work.

Initially, the law required all respective NGOs to request the Ministry to have them registered and implied legal consequences for failure to do so. Because in Russia “foreign agent” can be interpreted only as “spy” or “traitor,” there is little doubt that the law aims to demonize and marginalize independent advocacy groups. Russia’s vibrant human rights groups resolutely boycotted the law, calling it “unjust” and “slanderous.”

In early March 2013 the Russian government launched a nationwide campaign of intrusive inspections of hundreds of NGOs to identify advocacy groups the government deems “foreign agents” and force them to register as such.

Since the law entered into force, numerous rights groups challenged the prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Justice in courts; most lost their cases. As a result, by February 2015 at least 13 groups chose to shut down rather than wear the shameful “foreign agent” label, including Association of NGOs in Defense of Voters’ Rights “Golos”, JURIX (Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms), the Moscow School of Civic Education (Moscow), Kostroma Center for Civic Initiatives Support, Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) Memorial, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Coming Out, “Freedom of Information” Foundation, the League of Women Voters and Human Rights Resource Center (Saint-Petersburg), Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies and Association “Partnership for Development” (Saratov), Interregional Non-Governmental Organization  “The Committee Against Torture” (Nizhniy Novgorod).

In August 2013, Russia’s then-federal ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, acting on behalf of four organizations and their leaders who were affected by the law, challenged the law in Russia’s Constitutional Court. On April 8, 2014 Russia’s Constitutional Court upheld the law, ruling that there were no legal or constitutional grounds for contending that the term “foreign agent” had negative connotations from the Soviet era and that, therefore, its use was “not intended to persecute or discredit” NGOs. The Constitutional Court also found that the “foreign agent” designation was in line with the public interest and the interest of state sovereignty.

On May 23, 2014 parliament amended the “foreign agents” law, this time authorizing the Ministry of Justice to register independent groups as “foreign agents” without their consent, if the ministry regards the organizations as engaged in “political activity” and if the organization is receiving foreign funding. On June 4, 2014 the amendments were signed into law.

On June 5, 2014 the Ministry of Justice promptly registered five groups as “foreign agents,” and since then has registered a total of 137, including prominent civil society groups that vigorously protested this action.

I. By July 22, 2016 the registry of “foreign agents” maintained by the Ministry of Justice included the following groups:

  1. Association of NGOs in Defense of Voters’ Rights “Golos” (Moscow) – June 5, 2014 
  2. Regional Public Association in Defense of Democratic Rights and Freedoms “Golos” (Moscow) – June 5, 2014
  3. Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies (Saratov) – June 5, 2014 (the organization was shut down – May 22, 2015)
  4. Women of Don (Rostov region) – June 5, 2014 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – February 29, 2016)
  5. Kostroma Center for Support of Public Initiatives (Kostroma) – June 5, 2014 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – June 19, 2015)
  6. Interregional Human Rights Association “Agora” (Kazan) – July 21, 2014
  7. Regional public organization “Ecozaschita! – Womens’ Council” (Kaliningrad) – July  21, 2014
  8. Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow) – July 21, 2014
  9. Human Rights Center “Memorial” (Moscow) – July 21, 2014
  10. Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms / JURIX (Moscow) – July 21, 2014 (the organization was shut down – May 26, 2015)
  11. Soldiers’ Mothers (Saint Petersburg) – August 28, 2014 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – October 23, 2015)
  12. Freedom of Information Foundation / Institute for Information Freedom Development – August 28, 2014
  13. PIR Center – September 3, 2014 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – February 24, 2016)
  14. Association “Partnership for Development” (Saratov) – October 2, 2014 (the organization was shut down – November 6, 2015)
  15. “News Agency MEMO.RU” (Moscow) – November 20, 2014
  16. Regional Press Institute (St. Petersburg) – November 20, 2014
  17. Moscow School of Civic Education – December 9, 2014
  18. Rakurs, Arkhangelsk regional non-governmental LGBT organization – December 15, 2014
  19. All-Russian movement "For Human Rights" – December 22, 2014 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – December 30, 2015)
  20. Human Rights Center (Kaliningrad) – December 25, 2014
  21. Krasnodar Regional Social Organization of University Alumni – December 25, 2014
  22. Regional social organization "Public Commission for Academic Sakharov's Heritage Preservation" – December 25, 2014
  23. Resource Human Rights Center (St. Petersburg) – December 30, 2014 (the organization was shut down – November 3, 2015)
  24. Regional Public Organization "Man and the Law" (Republic of Mari El) – December 30, 2014
  25. Center for Social Development "Vozrozhdeniye" (Pskov) – December 30, 2014
  26. Public Human Rights Organization "Civil Control" (St. Petersburg) – December 30, 2014
  27. The League of Women Voters (St. Petersburg) – December 30, 2014 (the organization was shut down – May 22, 2015)
  28. Free Press Support Foundation – December 30, 2014
  29. Interregional Non-Governmental Organization "The Committee Against Torture" – January 16, 2015
  30. Educational Center "Memorial" (Sverdlov region) – January 16, 2015
  31. Autonomous non-profit human rights organization "Youth Center for Consulting and Training" – January 20, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – July 22, 2015)
  32. "Information Bureau of the Nordic Council of Ministers in St. Petersburg" – January 20, 2015 
  33. Jewish regional branch of the Russian public organization "Municipal Academy"– January 26, 2015 (the organization was shut down – May 22, 2015)
  34. The noncommercial partnership "Press Development Institute - Siberia" – January 30, 2015
  35. Center for social, psychological and legal help to victims of discrimination and homophobia “Maximum” (Murmansk) – February 4, 2015 (the organization was shut down – October 28, 2015)
  36. Interregional public fund for civil society development “Golos-Povolzhye” (Samara) – February 6, 2015
  37. Interregional charity organization “Siberian Environmental Center” (Novosibirsk) – February 12, 2015
  38. Center for Civic Analysis and Independent Research / GRANI (Perm) – February 13, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – June 19, 2015)
  39. Municipal public organization “Samara Center for Gender Studies” (Samara) – February 16, 2015
  40. Regional Fund "Center for Defense of Mass Media Rights" (Voronezh) – February 26, 2015
  41. Regional Charitable Social Foundation "For nature" (Chelyabinsk) – March 6, 2015
  42. Regional Ecological Social Movement "For nature" (Chelyabinsk) –  March 6, 2015
  43. Humanist Youth Movement (Murmansk) – March 13, 2015 (the organization was shut down – August 25, 2015)
  44. Regional Social Organization for Contribution to Harmonization of Interethnic Relations "Azerbaijan" – March 13, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – July 22, 2016)
  45. Regional Social Environmental Organization "Bellona-Murmansk" – March 19, 2015 (the organization was shut down – October 16, 2015)
  46. "Educational Center for Environment and Security" (Samara) – March 20, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – October 8, 2015)
  47. Foundation "Migration XXI Century" – March 27, 2015
  48. Eco-logika (Rostov) – April 3, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – March 30, 2016)
  49. Transparency International Russia - April 7, 2015
  50. Social Environmental Organization "Planeta Nadezhd" – April 15, 2015
  51. Foundation for Consumers' Rights Defense (Novosibirsk) – April 17, 2015 (the organization was shut down – May 12, 2016)
  52. Civil Assistance Committee – April 20, 2015
  53. Foundation 19/29 -  Foundation for Support of Investigative Journalism – April 24, 2015 
  54. Commemorative Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm - 36" –  April 29, 2015
  55. Women's League (Kaliningrad ) – April 29, 2015 (the organization was shut down – December 16, 2015)
  56. Legal Expert Partnership "Soyuz " – May 7, 2015 (the organization was shut down – 25 August 2015)
  57. Center for Development of Non-Commerical Organizations – May 13, 2015
  58. Club of Accountants and Auditors of Non-Commercial Organizations – May 13, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – March 30, 2016)
  59. Informational Bureau of the Council of Ministers of Northern Countries (Kaliningrad) – May 13, 2015
  60. Sutyajnik (Yekaterinburg) – May 15, 2015
  61. Human Rights Academy (Yekaterinburg) – May 15, 2015
  62. Ecological Center "Dront" (Nizhny Novgorod) – May 22, 2015
  63. The non-profit organization "Liberal Mission" Scientific Foundation of Theoretical and Applied Research – May 25, 2015 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – September 11, 2015)
  64. The non-profit Dynasty Foundation – May 25, 2015
  65. Union of Employers (Tula region) – May 28, 2015
  66. Youth organization "Nuori Karjala/Young Karelia" – June 19, 2015 (the organization was shut down – March 25, 2016)
  67. Siberian Center for Support of Social Initiatives – June 19, 2015
  68. Interregional Social Foundation for Peace in the South and in the Northern Caucasus – June 19, 2015
  69. Informational Center "Free Inform" – June 22, 2015 (the organization was shut down – June 21, 2016)
  70. Center for Independent Sociological Studies (St. Petersburg) – June 22, 2015
  71. Regional Organization for Population and Development  – June 23, 2015
  72. Geblerov Ecological Societ (Barnaul) – June 23, 2015 
  73. Association “Legal Basis” (Yekaterinburg) – July 3, 2015
  74. Interregional Non-governmental Organization "Northern Environmental Coalition" (Petrozavodsk) – July 8, 2015 (the organization was shut down – December 1, 2015)
  75. Komi Human Rights Commission "Memorial" (Syktyvkar) – July 21, 2015
  76. Altai Regional Public Fund for 21st Century Altai (Barnaul) – July 22, 2015 (the organization was shut down – March 28, 2016)
  77. Interregional Public Foundation for Civil Society Development "GOLOS-Ural" (Chelyabinsk region) – July 22, 2015
  78. SREDA Foundation – July 28, 2015
  79. Non-governmental environmental organization "Green World" (Nizhny Novgorod) – July 29, 2015
  80. Civic Action Foundation (Perm) – August 5, 2015
  81. Alliance of Funds of Local Communities of the Perm territory – August 11, 2015
  82. Kabardino-Balkaria Human Rights Center – regional branch of the “For Human Rights” All-Russian movement (Nalchik) – August 18, 2015 (the organization was shut down – November 6, 2015)
  83. The Human Rights Center of the Chechen Republic (Grozny) – August 21, 2015
  84. Interregional Social Ecological Foundation "ISAR-Siberia" (Novosibirsk) – August 26, 2015
  85. Perm Regional Human Rights Center (Perm) – September 3, 2015
  86. Siberia's lifeline (Novosibirsk) – September 3, 2015
  87. Golos Foundation in Support of Democracy – September 4, 2015 (the organization was shut down – June 21, 2016)
  88. Jewish Cultural Center "Hesed-Teshuva" (Ryazan) – September 4, 2015
  89. Sakhalin Environment Watch (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) – September 18, 2015
  90. Yasavey Manzara Information and Research Center (Naryan-Mar) – September 23, 2015 (the organization was shut down – June 15, 2016)
  91. Consumer Rights and Environment Protection Association "Princip" (Moscow region) – October 5, 2015
  92. Far East Center for the Development of Civil Initiatives and Social Partnership (Vladivostok)– October 13, 2015
  93. Russian Research Center for Human Rights – October 20, 2015
  94. Women of the Don (Rostov region) – October 27, 2015
  95. Friends of the Siberian Forests (Krasnoyarsk) – October 28, 2015
  96. Photography Club "Sobytiye" (Omsk) – October 28, 2015 (the organization was shut down – December 16, 2015)
  97. Research and Information Center "Memorial" (St. Petersburg) – November 6, 2015
  98. Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk) – November 10, 2015
  99. Glasnost Defense Foundation – November 19, 2015
  100. Human Rights Institute – November 20, 2015
  101. Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North – November 27, 2015
  102. Green World (Leningrad region) – December 2, 2015
  103. Mashr (Republic of Ingushetia) – December 8, 2015
  104. Woman's World (Kaliningrad) – December 11, 2015
  105. Panorama Information and Research Center (Moscow) – December 18, 2015
  106. Dauria Ecological Center (Chita) – December 30, 2015
  107. Yekaterinburg Memorial Society (Yekaterinburg) – December 30, 2015
  108. Bureau of Public Investigations (Nizhny Novgorod) – January 14, 2016
  109. Committee for the Prevention of Torture (Orenburg) – January 14, 2016
  110. Institute of Forecasting and Resolving of Political Conflicts (Nizhny Novgorod) – January 22, 2016
  111. Ryazan Historical, Educational and Human Rights Center "Memorial" (Ryazan) – February 1, 2016
  112. Society of Assistance to Social Protection of Citizens "Peterburgskaya EGIDA" (Saint Petersburg) – February 2, 2016 (the organization was shut down – April 26, 2016)
  113. Center for Health and Social Support "SIBALT"  (Omsk) – February 15, 2016
  114. Chelyabinsk Regional Organ of Public Independent Action "Ural Human Rights Group" (Chelyabinsk) – February 15, 2016
  115. Women of Eurasia (Chelyabinsk) – February 15, 2016
  116. Ural Democratic Foundation (Chelyabinsk) – February 15, 2016
  117. Legal and Social Support Charitable Foundation "Sphere" (Saint Petersburg) –  March 1, 2016
  118. Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights (Perm) – March 3, 2016
  119. The International Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation "Batani" (Moscow) – March 11, 2016
  120. Center for Social and Labor Rights  (Moscow) – March 21, 2016
  121. Arkhar (Gorno-Altaysk) – April 5, 2016
  122. Publishing House "Valentin Manuylov" – April 15, 2016
  123. Tengri School of Soul ecology (Altay) - May 17, 2016
  124. Hanse Buero / Information Bureau of Schleswig-Holstein in Kaliningrad (Kaliningrad) - May 24, 2016
  125. Krasnoyarsk Regional Public Organization «Agency of public initiatives» (Krasnoyarsk) - May 27, 2016
  126. Saratov Regional Public Organization "Socium" (Engels) - May 30, 2016
  127. Perm regional non-governmental organization "Perm Civil Chamber" (Perm) - June 9, 2016
  128. Regional non-governmental organization Integration center "Migration and Law" (Moscow) - June 16, 2016
  129. Non-Profit Partnership “ESVERO” (Moscow) - June 22, 2016
  130. Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (Moscow) - June 29, 2016
  131. Altai regional sport and patriotic youth public organization "Arctica" (Biysk) - July 6, 2016
  132. Autonomous non-governmental organization "Free Word" (Pskov) - July 13, 2016
  133. The Institute of Economic Analysis (Moscow) - July 22, 2016

    And the four NGOs which registered voluntarily:

  1. Non-commercial Partnership “Supporting Competition in the CIS Countries” – June 27, 2013 
  2. "The Union of Young Political Scientists",  Karachay–Cherkess Republican Youth Social Organization – December 15, 2014
  3. Regional Social Movement "Novgorod Women's Parliament" (Veliky Novgorod) –  March 6, 2015
  4. Center of Independent Researchers of the Altai Republic –  June 10, 2015

II. Administrative Court Cases – at least 58 NGOs

Groups that a court has found responsible for failing to register as a “foreign agent” may be fined up to 500,000 rubles (over US$16,000), and their leaders personally – up to 300,000 rubles (approximately $10,000). They are:

  1. Association of NGOs in Defense of Voters’ Rights “Golos” (Moscow) – NGO lost the suit
  2. Kostroma Center for Support of Public Initiatives (Kostroma) – NGO lost the suit
  3. Anti-Discrimination Center “Memorial” (St. Petersburg) – NGO won two administrative cases,  but later lost a similar civil suit to the prosecutor’s office and chose to shut down
  4. Coming Out (St. Petersburg) – NGO won the administrative case but later lost a similar civil suit to the prosecutor’s office
  5. Side by Side LGBT Film Festival (St. Petersburg) – NGO  won the suit
  6. Regional Public Association in Defense of Democratic Rights and Freedoms “Golos” (Moscow) -  NGO lost the suit
  7. Center for Civic Analysis and Independent Research / GRANI (Perm) – NGO won the suit
  8. Perm Civic Chamber (Perm) – NGO won the suit
  9. Perm Regional Human Rights Center (Perm) – NGO  won the suit
  10. Women of Don (Rostov region) – NGO lost the suit
  11. Ecozachita! – Zhensovet (Kaliningrad) – NGO  lost the suit
  12. Association “Partnership for Development” (Saratov) – NGO  lost the suit
  13. News Agency "MEMO.RU” (Moscow) – NGO lost the suit
  14. Regional Press Institute (St. Petersburg) – NGO lost the suit
  15. Moscow School of Civic Education – NGO lost the suit
  16. All-Russian movement "For Human Rights" – NGO lost the suit
  17. Regional Public Organization "Man and the Law" (Republic of Mari El) – NGO lost the suit
  18. Human Rights Center (Kaliningrad) – NGO won the suit
  19. Krasnodar Regional Social Organization of University Alumni – the proceedings was discontinued
  20. Regional social organization "Public Commission for Academic Sakharov's Heritage Preservation" – NGO lost the suit
  21. Autonomous non-profit human rights organization "Youth Center for Consulting and Training" (Volgograd) – NGO lost the suit
  22. Rakurs, Arkhangelsk regional non-governmental LGBT organization – NGO lost the suit
  23. Center for social, psychological and legal help to victims of discrimination and homophobia “Maximum” (Murmansk) – NGO lost the suit
  24. Educational Center "Memorial" (Sverdlov region) – NGO lost the suit, court of appeal decreased the amount of fine
  25. Interregional public fund for civil society development “Golos-Povolzhye” (Samara) – NGO lost the suit
  26. Citizens' Watch (St. Petersburg) – NGO lost the suit
  27. The noncommercial partnership "Press Development Institute - Siberia" – NGO won the suit
  28. Regional Fund "Center for Defense of Mass Media Rights" – NGO lost the suit
  29. Regional Social Organization for Contribution to Harmonization of Interethnic Relations "Azerbaijan" – NGO lost the suit
  30. Regional Charitable Social Foundation "For nature" (Chelyabinsk) – NGO lost the suit
  31. Regional Ecological Social Movement "For nature" (Chelyabinsk) – NGO won the suit
  32. Eco-logika (Rostov) – NGO lost the suit
  33. Regional Social Environmental Organization "Bellona-Murmansk" – NGO lost the suit
  34. Foundation "Migration XXI Century" – NGO lost the suit
  35. Interregional charity organization “Siberian Environmental Center” (Novosibirsk) – NGO lost the suit, court of appeal decreased the amount of fine
  36. The non-profit organization "Liberal Mission" Scientific Foundation of Theoretical and Applied Research – NGO lost the suit
  37. Center for Development of Non-Commerical Organizations – NGO lost the suit
  38. The non-profit Dynasty Foundation – NGO lost the suit
  39. Foundation 19/29 -  Foundation for Support of Investigative Journalism – NGO lost the suit
  40. Association “Legal Basis” (Yekaterinburg) – NGO lost the suit
  41. Ecological Center "Dront" (Nizhny Novgorod) – NGO lost the suit
  42. Regional Organization for Population and Development – NGO lost the suit
  43. Center for Independent Sociological Studies (St. Petersburg) – NGO lost the suit
  44. Human Rights Center “Memorial” – NGO lost the suit
  45. Transparency International Russia – NGO lost the suit
  46. Interregional Non-Governmental Organization “Committee Against Torture” – NGO lost the suit
  47. Geblerov Ecological Societ (Barnaul) – NGO won the suit
  48. Civic Action Foundation (Perm) – NGO lost the suit
  49. Interregional Social Ecological Foundation "ISAR-Siberia" (Novosibirsk) – NGO lost the suit
  50. Sakhalin Environment Watch (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) – NGO lost the suit and is appealing the ruling
  51. Club of Accountants and Auditors of Non-Commercial Organizations – NGO lost the suit
  52. Women's League (Kaliningrad) – NGO won the suit
  53. Russian Research Center for Human Rights – NGO lost the suit
  54. Interregional Public Foundation for Civil Society Development "GOLOS-Ural" (Chelyabinsk region) – NGO lost the suit
  55. Human Rights Institute – NGO lost the suit
  56. Interregional Human Rights Association “Agora” – NGO lost the suit
  57. Glasnost Defense Foundation – suit pending
  58. Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk) – suit pending

III. The leaders of at least 8 NGOs faced administrative charges personally:

  1. Anti-Discrimination Center “Memorial” (St. Petersburg) – NGO won the suit but the organization chose two shut down when it lost a “foreign agent” civil suit to the prosecutor’s office
  2. Side by Side LGBT Film Festival (St. Petersburg) – NGO won the suit
  3. Coming Out (St. Petersburg) – NGO won the suit
  4. Association “Partnership for Development” – NGO lost the suit
  5. Kostroma Center for Support of Public Initiatives (Kostroma) – NGO lost the suit
  6. Association of NGOs in Defense of Voters’ Rights “Golos” (Moscow) – NGO won the suit
  7. Autonomous non-profit human rights organization "Youth Center for Consulting and Training" (Volgograd) – NGO lost the suit
  8. Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk) – suit pending

IV. Leader of at least 1 NGO faces criminal charges personally:

  1. Women of Don (Rostov region) - criminal proceeding is in process. Chair Valentina Cherevatenko faces up to two years in prison for “malicious evasion of the duty to file the documents required for inclusion in the register of nonprofit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent.”