A wave of inspections hit organisations all over Russia

Hundreds, maybe thousands, non-governmental organisations in Russia are being subjected to inspections. The wave of check ups comes after the introduction of a series of laws restricting the activities of civil society and discrediting their work in the eyes of the public.

The inspections started in February and intensified during the last days. Hundreds of organizations, in Moscow, St Petersburg, Orenburg, Penza, Saratov, Rostov, Krasnodar, Primorsky, Perm and Altai are being meticulously checked. Several of the organisations have received letters from the prosecutor informing that they are subjected to checks in connection to Russia’s vaguely worded law on extremism.

“The massive nature of the inspections and the way they are conducted show that they are part of a general clampdown on civil society that has characterized Russia since the reinstallation of Vladimir Putin as President in May last year. We urge Russia to stop the crackdown on human rights organisations and EU to raise concerns about it in its contacts with Russia”, says Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director of the Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Civil Rights Defenders.

One of the organisations subjected to an inspection was the International Memorial Society, who was visited by representatives of the prosecutor’s office, the Federal Taxation Service and the Ministry of Justice, on Thursday. The officials were accompanied by a crew from the television channel NTV, notorious for its reporting aimed at discrediting critics of Russian policies. Later NTV showed a report from the visit focusing on that Memorial receives foreign funding ( http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/526936/ ). The most controversial of a series of “anti-NGO-laws” that came into force in Russia during the past months is the so-called agent law. According to it Russian organisations receiving funding from abroad and conducting “political activities” need to register as “foreign agents”, a term with very negative connotations reminding of Russia’s Soviet past.

“The inspections should be seen as an action against civil society in general. Especially smaller and weaker NGOs in Russia may face serious problems as a result”, says Jan Rakhinsky, Board member of the International Memorial Society.

The Russian prosecutor’s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 nongovernmental organizations in each of Russia’s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country. Many inspections have been made without any advanced notice. Some cases have been conducted only by prosecutors, while others also involved an extensive inspection of specialists from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the security service FSB, the Ministry of Emergencies, the Federal Service for Supervision of Protection of Consumer Rights and Human Well-Being and the Tax Inspectorate.

Organisations have been given between three and six days to submit documents and the requirements of the authorities have in some cases been very vaguely formulated, making it hard to comply with. Sometimes inspectors have stayed in the NGO’s office to view and copy documents for further study and even required copies of private notes.

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For more information please call Joanna Kurosz +46 709 89 60 11 or Cecilia Rosing +46 709 89 60 14

Categories: News.
Tags: Civil society, Foreign agents, Law on NGOs, and Memorial.
Regions: Russia.