Russian NGO crackdown: Election watchdog group facing closure


A man looks at a banner with portraits of (left to right) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian Prime Minister Putin and a sign reading "Next in line" during an authorized opposition rally at Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow on March 13, 2011.


Andrey Smirnov

Russia’s main independent election watchdog group, Golos, is the latest target in a recent string of NGO closures by the government.

The group said it faces fines or even closure as part of a campaign to silence organizations that are critical of President Vladimir Putin.

Euronews reported the Justice Ministry published a report that said it asked the courts to close or suspend nearly 9,000 NGOs working in Russia, and that more than 5,000 others are facing fines.

Russia's Justice Ministry contends Golos failed to register as a foreign agent.

“If any foreign citizen sends one ruble to the bank account of an NGO, even if the organization itself has no idea about that, immediately the Ministry of Justice says ‘OK, you received money from a foreign citizen - you should register as a foreign agent,'" said Grigory Melkonyants, Deputy Head of Golos.

NGOs say they are being intimidated into registering as “foreign agents” – which would unfairly hurt their credibility.

The BBC said more than 100 civil society and human rights groups across Russia have been "subjected to inspections by prosecutors and tax officials" under a new anti-NGO law.

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