Putin signs law to ban "undesirable" NGOs in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning "undesirable" non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Kremlin announced on Saturday.
Under the law, a foreign or international non-governmental organization could be designated as "undesirable" if it poses a threat to Russia's constitutional system, defensive capabilities and national security.
"Undesirable" NGOs will be barred from creating structural units in territory of the Russian Federation, distributing their information materials, including via mass media, and implementing own projects in Russia.
The law authorizes the Russian Prosecutor General or his deputies to designate foreign or international NGOs as unwelcome organizations upon an approval from Russia's Foreign Ministry. Removal of NGOs from the black list should follow the same procedure. The register of "undesirable" organizations will be kept and published by the Justice Ministry of Russia.
The law also compels credit and non-credit financial institutions to deny provision of transactions with "undesirable" financial and other assets, provided one of the transacting parties is an organization listed as unwelcome.
Credit and non-credit institutions must also provide information about instances of denying such a transaction to the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), which in turn shall provide that information to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and the Russian Justice Ministry.
The law specifies an administrative penalty for an unwelcome organization conducting activity in Russia [unless such an action constitutes a criminal offense]: a fine of 5,000 to 15,000 rubles for individuals, between 20,000 and 50,000 rubles for officials, and between 50,000 and 100,000 rubles for legal entities.
Under the law, the authorities can ban foreign NGOs and go after their employees, who risk up to six years in prison. In particular, the law imposes a criminal penalty if the management or members of an unwelcome organization had been fined for such offenses twice in a year, in such case they will face another fine of between 300,000 and 500,000 rubles, or two to three years' worth of their salaries, or up to 360 hours of compulsory labor.
A person who has voluntarily ceased his or her involvement in the activity of an unwelcome organization shall be relieved of criminal liability, provided his or her action does not constitute another crime, according to the law.
Supporters presented the law as a "preventative measure," necessary after the wave of Western sanctions put in place over the Ukraine conflict.
Amnesty International called it "the last chapter in the unprecedented repression against non-governmental organizations."
The recent law complements legislation already passed in 2012, which forces NGOs that receive foreign funds to register as a "foreign agent."