NGO probed in Russia over ‘foreign agent’ accusation

Moscow, April 17 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Prosecutors in Russia have opened a case against a non-governmental organisation accused of not registering as a “foreign agent” in the wake of a wave of inspections of NGOs, a rights group said.

Alexander Zamaryanov, director of the Kostroma Public Initiatives Support Center, is suspected of being involved in political activities and receiving foreign funding while not being registered as a “foreign agent” as required by a controversial new law.

Prosecutors in Kostroma town reportedly opened the case after a roundtable on US-Russian relations was held by the NGO Feb 28, the Agora advocacy group, which will represent the organisation, said in a statement.

The roundtable – titled “Resetting the Reset: Where Are Russian-American Relations Heading?” – was attended by Howard Solomon, deputy minister counsellor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Russia.

Prosecutors say the NGO has received foreign funding since 2011, including from unnamed US-based sources, so it has to register as a “foreign agent”, Agora said in its statement.

The NGO’s activities, the prosecutors claim, prove that the organisation is involved in “shaping public opinion about state policies on Russia’s territory”.

Zamaryanov now faces a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,500), while the NGO could have to pay up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900).

The Kostroma-based NGO is the second organisation to have a case opened against it under the new law obliging NGOs that receive any foreign funding and are involved into political activities to register as “foreign agents”, a term that critics have complained is misleading and smacks of Cold War rhetoric, conjuring up associations of spying.

Earlier, independent election watchdog Golos became the first Russian NGO to be charged under the new law that came into force in November last year and has been strongly opposed by human rights advocates.

State officials have inspected dozens of NGOs across the country in the past few weeks to see how the law is being implemented, but have come under fire from international human rights groups and Western governments for carrying out unannounced and lengthy inspections.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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