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.

For the past four years, the Kremlin has sought to stigmatize criticism or alternative views of government policy as disloyal, foreign-sponsored, or even traitorous.  It is part of a sweeping crackdown to silence critical voices that has included new legal restrictions on the internet, on freedom of expression, on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and on other fundamental freedoms.   

An enduring, central feature has been the 2012 law requiring independent groups to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any foreign funding and engage in broadly defined “political activity.” In Russia, the term “foreign agent” can be interpreted by the public only as “spy” or “traitor.” To date, Russia’s Justice Ministry has designated 144 groups as “foreign agents,” courts have levied staggering fines on many groups for failing to comply with the law, and over 20 groups have shut down rather than wear the “foreign agent” label. 
Organizations targeted  include groups that work on human rights, the environment, LGBT issues, and health issues,  groups that do polling about social issues. A court forced the closure of AGORA Association, one of Russia’s leading human rights organizations , in response to a  Justice Ministry suit alleging that the group violated the “foreign agents” law and carried out work beyond its mandate.
 
The ministry has removed its “foreign agent” tag from 13 groups, acknowledging that they had stopped accepting foreign funding. Accordingly, as of September 22, 2016, the official list of active “foreign agents” consisted of  106 groups. 
 
 
The ‘Foreign Agent’ Law
Under the 2012 law, groups must register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” if they receive even a minimal  amount of  funding from any foreign sources, governmental or private, and engage in “political activity.” The definition of political activity under the law is so broad and vague that it effectively extends to all aspects of advocacy and human rights work. Initially, the law required all  nongovernmental organizations that met these criteria  to register with  the ministry and to identify themselves as “foreign agents” in all their public materials, with  legal consequences for failure to comply.  
 
Russia’s human rights groups resolutely boycotted the law, calling it “unjust” and “slanderous.” In 2013, Russia’s then-federal ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, challenged the law in Russia’s Constitutional Court. In 2014, the court upheld the law, finding 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” organizations. The court also found that the “foreign agent” designation was in line with the public interest and the interest of state sovereignty.
 
Two years of mounting pressure by the authorities, court proceedings, and massive fines did not succeed in forcing groups to voluntarily register as foreign agents.  In May 2014 Russia’s parliament amended the “foreign agents” law to authorize the Justice Ministry to register groups as “foreign agents” without their consent. 
 
In May 2016, parliament adopted another set of amendments to the law, expanding the controversial definition of “political activity” to include, among other things, any attempt by an independent group to influence public policy, regardless of the group’s mandate. 
 
To date, the registry of “foreign agents” includes the following organizations:
  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 (“foreign agent” status was suspended – April 22, 2016)
  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 (the organization was shut down – September 13, 2016)
  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 (the organization was shut down – August 18, 2016)
  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 (the organization was shut down – August 1, 2016)
  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 (the organization was shut down – September 1, 2016)
  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
  134. Penza regional youth civic organization for prevention of negative phenomena among youth "Panacea" (Kuznetsk) - August 15, 2016
  135. Samara regional, civic organization "American alumni club" (Samara) - August 26, 2016
  136. Autonomous non-for-profit organization "Publishing house 'Park Gagarina'" (Samara) - August 31, 2016
  137. Levada Analytical Center (Moscow) - September 5, 2016
  138. Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (Maikop) - September 13, 2016
  139. Autonomous non-for-profit human rights organization "Draftee's school" (Chelyabinsk) - September 21, 2016
  140. Foundation for support of civil freedoms "Legal mission" (Chelyabinsk) - September 21, 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

 

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.”