Three NGOs founded by the former Russian prisoner of conscience and ardent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his allies were designated as “undesirable” by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Wednesday, just the latest in a longstanding crackdown on civil society, Amnesty International said.
The decree effectively bans the UK-registered Open Russia and its sister organisation Open Russia Civic Movement and outlaws any association with them. The third group blacklisted on the same day is the US-based Institute of Modern Russia, chaired by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s son, Pavel.
“These aren’t the first organizations banned in Russia as ‘undesirable’, but it’s the first time the authorities ban a civil society group that was founded by Russians and operates only in Russia. Since its creation, Open Russia has done a lot to support victims of human rights violations in Russia and denounce Russia’s deplorable human rights record, and now itself has fallen victim to the system,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia.
Open Russia has done a lot to support victims of human rights violations in Russia and denounce Russia’s deplorable human rights record, and now itself has fallen victim to the systemSergei Nikitin, Director of Amnesty International Russia
“For many years, Russian authorities have relentlessly worked to create a hostile environment for civil society. Open Russia’s activities in human rights defence, its support of independent candidates running for national and local elected offices and media work were a great impediment to them. By banning the organization, the authorities intend to overcome this obstacle.”
In a statement posted on its website, the Prosecutor General’s office said that Open Russia organizations and Institute of Modern Russia carry out “special programmes and projects” in order to “discredit the results of the elections in Russia, to declare their results as illegitimate.” According to the statement, their actions “are aimed at inspiring protests and destabilizing the domestic situation, which threatens the basic principles of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation and the security of the state.”
Since the adoption of the law in July 2015, seven non-profit organizations were added into the list of “undesirable” organizations: The National Endowment for Democracy, OSI Assistance Foundation, Open Society Foundation, US-Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law, International Republican Institute, Media Development Investment Fund and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.