MPs suggest restricting activities of 'undesirable foreign groups' in Russia

MPs suggest restricting activities of ‘undesirable foreign groups’ in Russia

Published time: November 27, 2014 10:10

Two opposition lawmakers want an official list of “undesirable foreign organizations” and criminal responsibility for Russians who assist the activities of these entities inside the country.

Aleksandr Tarnavskiy of the leftist Fair Russia party and Anton Ishchenko of the nationalist LDPR party have prepared a set of legislative amendments introducing the definition of an “undesirable foreign organization.”

The sponsors of the motion write in the explanatory note that they deem it important to prevent any potential for foreign groups to harm the “basic values of the Russian state.” The MPs see threat in organizations involved in so-called color revolutions and those that can sow ethnic and religious strife among in Russia.

They want to give the Prosecutor General the power to recognize foreign or international organizations as undesirable. The decision must be based on information presented by the Interior Ministry and coordinated with the Foreign Ministry, the bill suggests.

After the group is recognized as “undesirable”, the authorities would freeze its accounts in Russian banks and impound any property on Russian territory. The organization would also be banned from opening offices, branches or affiliate companies in Russia, and barred from collecting donations or distributing propaganda. The bill also stipulates that individual foreign members of the banned groups would be officially banned from entering the country.

The MPs also suggest introducing new articles to the Administrative and Criminal codes, punishing Russian citizens who assist the activities of undesirable foreign organizations with fines of between 10,000 and 100,000 rubles ($220 – $2200).Repeated offenses could carry criminal responsibility with a maximum of 8 years in prison. However, anyone who voluntarily quits working for an undesirable foreign organization must not be criminally prosecuted, the draft reads.

“This is a prevention measure, many organizations have a reputation they value and even the threat of getting into this list would force them to change the methods of their work or leave Russia. We don’t see our objective as punishing someone, it is important for us that the motion prevents hostile activities harming our country,” MP Tarnavskiy said in an interview with Izvestia daily.

According to Izvestia the government and the Supreme Court have already approved the bill with minor corrections.

The motion can be seen as a radical expansion of the “Foreign Agents Law” introduced in late 2012. According to this act, all NGOs who receive funding from abroad, and that are even partially engaged in political activities, must register as foreign agents or risk substantial fines.

The act caused a lot of complaints from activists and human rights officials who accused it of labeling the groups and warned of a possible sharp cut in foreign funding. Russian officials, including President Putin, have repeatedly emphasized that the law contained no sanctions against foreign-funded organizations and only sought to inform the Russian public better, and especially voters, of the possible motives of various participants in the political process.

Earlier this month, the State Duma passed a bill that makes it illegal for Russian political parties to receive sponsorship, or enter any business deals with NGOs with “foreign agent” status.

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