Friday, November 13, 2020

Proposed Law Would Effectively Destroy Russia’s NGO Sector

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 11 – A new bill in the Duma ( would significantly broaden the basis for declaring a Russian NGO a foreign agent, increase the likelihood and frequency of government raids and audits, and require NGOs to get advance agreement from the authorities about their programs and plans.

            If adopted and implemented, Memorial legal specialist Tatyana Glushkova says, the measure would “open the gates of hell” as far as Russian NGOs are concerned, force many to close and force all others to geld themselves or accept being gelded by the powers that be (

            And the Team 29 legal analysis group says that the draft bill sets the stage for a government-orchestrated purge of the NGO community that would leave the civil society sector hollowed out and a shadow of its former self, something the Kremlin has been working toward for some time ( and

            Any Russian NGO that received any funding, no matter how small, from any source abroad could be labelled a foreign agent, the new measure allows. It even gives the government the power to label an NGO with that limiting term if one or more of its members participate in a meeting organized by what Moscow calls “an undesirable organization.”

            Thus, a Russian NGO which refuses to take any money from foreign sources could nonetheless be labelled a foreign agent and subject to all the limitations and restrictions groups now classified that way because they receive significant funding from abroad if it simply attended a meeting hosted by a group Moscow doesn’t approve of.

            But the most frightening aspect of the new law is the introduction of a requirement that NGOs must seek the approval of the Russian government in advance for any program or plan. If such approval isn’t forthcoming and they go ahead anyway, such NGOs could be closed by the Russian courts.

            This is truly a draconian step backward, and it is entirely possible that the Kremlin will come out against it to prove its bona fides to those it believes it can influence or that the law will be applied in a highly selective manner. But even if either of those things proves to be true, it is a measure of the dangerous direction of Putin’s policies in this sector.

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