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Russian undesirable organizations law

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Picket in support of Anastasia Shevchenko, first person who was convicted for participation in an "undesirable" organisation
Undesirable organizations law
Undesirable NGOs law
  • On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation
Citation129-FZ
Enacted23 May 2015
Legislative history
Bill title662902-6

The Russian undesirable organizations law (officially Federal Law of 23.05.2015 N 129-FZ "On amendments of some legislative acts of the Russian Federation")[1] is a law that was signed by President Vladimir Putin on 23 May 2015 as a follow-up to the 2012 Russian foreign agent law and Dima Yakovlev Law. The law gives prosecutors the power to extrajudicially declare foreign and international organizations "undesirable" in Russia and shut them down. Organizations are subject to heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences if they fail to dissolve when given notice to do so. These punishments also apply to Russians who maintain ties to them. Critics say that the law is unclear in many areas and can be used to silence dissent. Supporters of the bill claim that this law is vital for the preservation of national security.

Implications for NGOs[edit]

Under the law, Russian prosecutors are able to target foreign groups which they deem to present "a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state."[2]

These organisations are forbidden from holding public events and from possessing or distributing promotional materials, including via mass media. All Russian banks and financial institutions are forbidden from cooperating with them and are required to inform Russia's financial watchdog agency about all those that attempt to use them.

When given notice from the prosecutors, these NGOs have to disband. Violators face fines or prison terms of up to six years. People cooperating with such entities are subject to fines and can be banned from entering Russia.[3] Russians who maintain ties with "undesirables" face penalties ranging from fines to a maximum of six years in prison.[4]

State Duma MP Aleksandr Tarnavsky, one of the legislation's coauthors, stated that "I do not think that there is a particular company that has to fall under this list. But if a company suddenly starts causing a lot of trouble, starts acting arrogantly and impudently, then in theory it could fall under the list of undesirable organizations."[5]

Enforcement[edit]

On 25 May 2015, the first proposed list of undesirable NGOs was sent to the Prosecutor-General's office was made by an MP from LDPR. The list included the think tank Carnegie Moscow Center, the international history and human rights society Memorial, as well as the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.[6]

On 7 July 2015, RIA Novosti published an alleged shortlist by the Federal Council of Russia of organizations to be branded undesirable. Those include the US-based Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the MacArthur Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The list also includes the Polish-based Education for Democracy foundation and the East European Democratic Centre as well as three Ukrainian organizations: The Ukrainian World Congress, the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.[7][8]

After the Federal Council's vote to include the MacArthur Foundation on the recommended list of "undesirable organizations", it announced the closing of its Russian division, operating since 1992.[9]

In July 2015, the National Endowment for Democracy became the first organization to be officially blacklisted by the Russian authorities under the law. The decision by the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation was announced on its website where it was claimed that NED's activities "pose a threat to constitutional order of the Russian Federation, defense potential and security of the state". Among NED's alleged violations were its donations to commercial and non-profit organizations that independently monitor elections, as well as for undefined "political activities" and "discrediting service in the [Russian] armed forces".[10][11]

In November 2015, two branches of George Soros' charity network, the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, were banned under this law in Russia. The infractions were not listed, but the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation released a statement stating that "the activity of the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation represents a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and the security of the state".[12][13]

Ahead of the March 2018 presidential election, two European organizations involved in election monitoring were added.[14]

Affected organizations[edit]

As of 17 June 2024, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation declared 167 overseas and international non-governmental organizations "undesirable" in Russia (including the occupied territories of Ukraine): most of the affected organizations are based in Germany, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[15]

List of organizations affected by the Russian undesirable organizations law
Organization affected Country Ministry
of Justice’s
order date
Prosecutor-
General’s
decision date
Ref.
1 National Endowment for Democracy United States 29 Jul 2015 28 Jul 2015 [16]
2 Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation United States 01 Dec 2015 26 Nov 2015 [17]
3 Open Society Foundations United States 01 Dec 2015 26 Nov 2015 [17]
4 U.S. Russia Foundation United States 07 Dec 2015 03 Dec 2015 [18]
5 National Democratic Institute United States 17 Mar 2016 10 Mar 2016 [19]
6 Media Development Investment Fund United States 22 Aug 2016 18 Aug 2016 [20]
7 International Republican Institute United States 22 Aug 2016 18 Aug 2016 [20]
8 Open Russia Civic Movement United Kingdom 27 Apr 2017 26 Apr 2017 [21]
9 Open Russia United Kingdom 27 Apr 2017 26 Apr 2017 [21]
10 Institute of Modern Russia [ru] United States 27 Apr 2017 26 Apr 2017 [22]
11 Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation Romania 03 Jul 2017 30 Jun 2017 [23]
12 European Platform for Democratic Elections Germany 13 Mar 2018 12 Mar 2018 [24]
13 International Elections Study Center Lithuania 13 Mar 2018 12 Mar 2018 [25]
14 German Marshall Fund United States 21 Mar 2018 20 Mar 2018 [26]
15 Pacific Environment United States 28 Aug 2018 24 Aug 2018 [27]
16 Free Russia Foundation United States 28 Jun 2019 27 Jun 2019 [28]
17 Ukrainian World Congress Canada 17 Jul 2019 11 Jul 2019 [29]
18 Atlantic Council United States 29 Jul 2019 25 Jul 2019 [30]
19 People in Need Czech Republic 12 Nov 2019 07 Nov 2019 [31]
20 European Endowment for Democracy Belgium 12 Mar 2020 06 Mar 2020 [32]
21 Jamestown Foundation United States 09 Apr 2020 08 Apr 2020 [33]
22 Project Harmony International United States 23 Apr 2020 22 Apr 2020 [34]
23 Dragon Springs Buddhist (The Mountain) United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
24 Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
25 European Falun Dafa Association United Kingdom 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
26 Friends of Falun Gong United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
27 Global Mission to Rescue Persecuted Falun Gong Practitioners United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
28 Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
29 World Organisation to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong United States 21 Jul 2020 17 Jul 2020 [35]
30 Prague Civil Society Centre Czech Republic 25 Dec 2020 17 Dec 2020 [36]
31 Association of Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe France 25 Dec 2020 22 Dec 2020 [36]
32 Center for Liberal Modernity [de] Germany 02 Jun 2021 26 May 2021 [37]
33 Forum of Russian-speaking Europeans Germany 02 Jun 2021 26 May 2021 [37]
34 Austausch [de] Germany 02 Jun 2021 26 May 2021 [37]
35 Bard College United States 30 Jun 2021 21 Jun 2021 [38]
36 European Choice France 09 Jul 2021 30 Jun 2021 [39]
37 Khodorkovsky Foundation United Kingdom 09 Jul 2021 30 Jun 2021 [39]
38 Oxford Russia Fund United Kingdom 09 Jul 2021 30 Jun 2021 [39]
39 Future of Russia Foundation United Kingdom 09 Jul 2021 30 Jun 2021 [39]
40 Freedom of Information Society (Team 29) Czech Republic 09 Jul 2021 29 Jun 2021 [40]
41 Proekt United States 23 Jul 2021 15 Jul 2021 [41]
42 International Partnership for Human Rights Belgium 17 Aug 2021 12 Aug 2021 [42]
43 New Generation Spiritual Directorate of the Evangelical Christian [uk] Ukraine 30 Aug 2021 23 Aug 2021 [43]
44 New Generation Evangelical Christian Church [uk] Latvia 30 Aug 2021 23 Aug 2021 [43]
45 New Generation International Biblical College [uk] Ukraine 30 Aug 2021 23 Aug 2021 [43]
46 New Generation International Christian Movement [uk] Latvia 30 Aug 2021 23 Aug 2021 [43]
47 World Institute of Scientology Enterprises United States 01 Oct 2021 24 Sep 2021 [44]
48 Church of Spiritual Technology United States 01 Oct 2021 24 Sep 2021 [44]
49 European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations Montenegro 01 Oct 2021 27 Sep 2021 [45]
50 WOT Foundation Poland 04 Feb 2022 25 Jan 2022 [46]
51 Free Idel-Ural Ukraine 28 Feb 2022 16 Feb 2022 [46]
52 Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project United States 05 Mar 2022 22 Feb 2022 [46]
53 iStories (Important Stories) Latvia 05 Mar 2022 22 Feb 2022 [46]
54 Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) United Kingdom 13 Apr 2022 07 Apr 2022 [46]
55 Crimean Human Rights Group Ukraine 13 May 2022 04 May 2022 [46]
56 Heinrich Böll Foundation Germany 31 May 2022 20 May 2022 [46]
57 Stichting Bellingcat Netherlands 26 Jul 2022 13 Jul 2022 [46]
58 Bellingcat United Kingdom 26 Jul 2022 13 Jul 2022 [46]
59 The Insider Latvia 26 Jul 2022 13 Jul 2022 [46]
60 CEELI Institute Czech Republic 26 Jul 2022 13 Jul 2022 [46]
61 Open Estonia Foundation Estonia 29 Jul 2022 19 Jul 2022 [46]
62 Calvert 22 Foundation United Kingdom 12 Aug 2022 29 Jul 2022 [46]
63 Ukrainian Canadian Congress Canada 19 Aug 2022 04 Aug 2022 [47]
64 Macdonald–Laurier Institute Canada 19 Aug 2022 04 Aug 2022 [47]
65 Ukrainian National Federation of Canada Canada 19 Aug 2022 04 Aug 2022 [47]
66 Decembrists (German: Dekabristen) Germany 25 Oct 2022 12 Oct 2022 [48]
67 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center) United States 25 Nov 2022 10 Nov 2022 [49]
68 Open Press France 25 Nov 2022 11 Nov 2022 [49]
69 Renaissance Volodymyr Muntyan Charitable Foundation Ukraine 25 Nov 2022 16 Nov 2022 [50]
70 Spiritual Center "Renaissance" [uk] Ukraine 25 Nov 2022 16 Nov 2022 [50]
71 Riddle Lithuania 13 Dec 2022 25 Nov 2022 [51]
72 Anti-war Committee in Sweden «Russians Against War» Sweden 10 Jan 2023 20 Dec 2022 [52]
73 Meduza Latvia 07 Feb 2023 25 Jan 2023 [53]
74 Andrei Sakharov Foundation United States 07 Feb 2023 23 Jan 2023 [54]
75 Free Russia Forum Lithuania 13 Feb 2023 30 Jan 2023 [55]
76 Free Nations League Lithuania 10 Mar 2023 17 Feb 2023 [56]
77 Transparency International Germany 21 Mar 2023 03 Mar 2023 [57]
78 Free Nations of Post-Russia Forum Poland 31 Mar 2023 15 Mar 2023 [58]
79 Solidarus Germany 05 Apr 2023 15 Mar 2023 [59]
80 CrimeaSOS Ukraine 05 Apr 2023 21 Mar 2023 [60]
81 Free University (Russia) [ru] (Latvian: Brīvā Universitāte) Latvia 18 Apr 2023 30 Mar 2023 [61]
82 Institute for Statecraft United Kingdom 25 Apr 2023 20 Mar 2023 [62]
83 EU—Russia Civil Society Forum Germany 25 Apr 2023 10 Apr 2023 [63]
84 Bellona Foundation Norway 02 May 2023 17 Apr 2023 [64]
85 League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands [ja] Japan 11 May 2023 20 Apr 2023 [65]
86 Congress of People’s Deputies Poland 18 May 2023 27 Apr 2023 [66]
87 Greenpeace International Netherlands 29 May 2023 18 May 2023 [67]
88 Anti-Corruption Foundation International United States 01 Jun 2023 22 May 2023 [68]
89 Transformation Center Church International, Transformation Center Covenant Network United States 27 Jun 2023 07 Jun 2023 [69]
90 Agora (Interregional Association of Human Rights Organizations) Bulgaria 28 Jun 2023 14 Jun 2023 [70]
91 World Wide Fund for Nature Switzerland 05 Jul 2023 20 Jun 2023 [71]
92 Novaya Gazeta Europe Latvia 14 Jul 2023 26 Jun 2023 [72]
93 Altai Project United States 17 Jul 2023 03 Jul 2023 [73]
94 Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv Ukraine 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
95 Human Rights House Foundation Norway 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
96 Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House Lithuania 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
97 Human Rights House Tbilisi Georgia 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
98 Human Rights House Yerevan Armenia 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
99 Human Rights House Crimea Ukraine 24 Jul 2023 05 Jul 2023 [74]
100 Wild Salmon Center United States 02 Aug 2023 17 Jul 2023 [75]
101 TVR Studios (TV Rain) Netherlands 04 Aug 2023 21 Jul 2023 [76]
102 TV Rain Latvia 04 Aug 2023 21 Jul 2023 [76]
103 Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (Martens Centre) Belgium 15 Aug 2023 28 Jul 2023 [77]
104 Conflict Intelligence Team Ukraine 18 Aug 2023 04 Aug 2023 [78]
105 AllatRa [uk] Ukraine 18 Aug 2023 02 Aug 2023 [79]
106 For a Free Russia (Polish: Za Wolną Rosję) Poland 23 Aug 2023 11 Aug 2023 [80]
107 Free Buryatia Foundation United States 12 Sep 2023 30 Aug 2023 [81]
108 URALIC Centre for Indigenous Peoples Estonia 14 Sep 2023 30 Aug 2023 [82]
109 UnKremlin Germany 18 Sep 2023 01 Sep 2023 [83]
110 International Transport Workers' Federation United Kingdom 18 Sep 2023 01 Sep 2023 [84]
111 EastCham Finland Finland 26 Sep 2023 12 Sep 2023 [85]
112 Hudson Institute United States 26 Sep 2023 13 Sep 2023 [86]
113 Foundation for Democratic Development United States 11 Oct 2023 18 Sep 2023 [87]
114 Committee-2024 Poland 17 Oct 2023 26 Sep 2023 [83]
115 Central European University Austria 01 Nov 2023 18 Sep 2023 [88]
116 Centre for East European and International Studies [de] Germany 01 Nov 2023 12 Sep 2023 [89]
117 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses [de] Germany 08 Nov 2023 12 Oct 2023 [90]
118 Religious Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine [uk] Ukraine 08 Nov 2023 12 Oct 2023 [90]
119 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania United States 08 Nov 2023 12 Oct 2023 [90]
120 Civic Council Poland 21 Nov 2023 03 Nov 2023 [91]
121 Center for European Policy Analysis United States 27 Nov 2023 23 Oct 2023 [92]
122 Eastern European Academic Network Germany 04 Dec 2023 14 Nov 2023 [93]
123 Russian Action Committee Lithuania 04 Dec 2023 14 Nov 2023 [93]
124 RAND Corporation United States 06 Dec 2023 21 Nov 2023 [94]
125 Russian America for Democracy in Russia United States 25 Dec 2023 24 Nov 2023 [95]
126 True Russia United Kingdom 25 Dec 2023 07 Dec 2023 [95]
127 Global Investigative Journalism Network United States 25 Dec 2023 05 Dec 2023 [95]
128 Helpdesk Media Foundation Latvia 26 Dec 2023 11 Dec 2023 [95]
129 Freies Russland Berlin Germany 26 Jan 2024 26 Dec 2023 [96]
130 Freies Russland NRW Germany 26 Jan 2024 26 Dec 2023 [96]
131 GlobalGiving Foundation United States 26 Jan 2024 11 Jan 2024 [96]
132 Anti-War Committee of Russia 31 Jan 2024 11 Jan 2024 [97]
133 Russie-Libertés [fr] France 31 Jan 2024 11 Jan 2024 [97]
134 Asociación de Rusos Libres Spain 31 Jan 2024 11 Jan 2024 [97]
135 Alliance for the Return of the Northern Territories Japan 05 Feb 2024 23 Jan 2024 [98]
136 Crimean Tatar Resource Center [uk] Ukraine 05 Feb 2024 16 Jan 2024 [98]
137 IndustriALL Global Union Switzerland 05 Feb 2024 17 Jan 2024 [98]
138 Russian Election Monitor Germany 07 Feb 2024 19 Jan 2024 [99]
139 Article 19 United Kingdom 08 Feb 2024 23 Jan 2024 [99]
140 Mnenie Media (DOXA) Czech Republic 08 Feb 2024 15 Jan 2024 [99]
141 Anarchist Black Cross Federation United States 16 Feb 2024 25 Jan 2024 [100]
142 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty United States 20 Feb 2024 02 Feb 2024 [101]
143 German Society for Eastern European Studies [de] Germany 01 Mar 2024 14 Feb 2024 [102]
144 Friedrich Ebert Foundation Germany 01 Mar 2024 14 Feb 2024 [102]
145 XZ Foundation Germany 01 Mar 2024 14 Feb 2024 [102]
146 OWEN — Mobile Academy for Gender Democracy and Peacebuilding Germany 01 Mar 2024 14 Feb 2024 [102]
147 Lew Kopelew Forum [de] Germany 13 Mar 2024 19 Feb 2024 [103]
148 American Councils for International Education United States 18 Mar 2024 26 Feb 2024 [104]
149 Cultural Vistas United States 18 Mar 2024 26 Feb 2024 [104]
150 Institute of International Education United States 18 Mar 2024 26 Feb 2024 [104]
151 Russians Against War Antalya Turkey 18 Mar 2024 26 Feb 2024 [104]
152 Open Dialogue Foundation Poland 25 Mar 2024 14 Feb 2024 [105]
153 Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy Canada 02 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [106]
154 Russian Canadian Democratic Alliance Canada 02 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [106]
155 Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Canada 02 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [106]
156 Center for Civil Liberties Ukraine 16 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [107]
157 Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom [ru] Germany 16 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [107]
158 Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Germany 16 Apr 2024 13 Mar 2024 [107]
159 Feminist Anti-War Resistance 25 Apr 2024 09 Apr 2024 [108]
160 Ingush Independence Committee Turkey 02 May 2024 11 April 2024 [109]
161 Prometheus Security Environment Research Center Ukraine 15 May 2024 24 Apr 2024 [110]
162 KKL-Stop the Occupation of Karelia Estonia 17 May 2024 25 Apr 2024 [111]
163 Come Back Alive Ukraine 17 May 2024 24 Apr 2024 [111]
164 Freedom House United States 21 May 2024 06 Apr 2024 [111]
165 SOTA media [ru] Lithuania 24 May 2024 07 May 2024 [110]
166 Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine Ukraine 03 June 2024 13 May 2024 [112]
167 German Historical Institute Moscow Germany 14 June 2024 30 May 2024 [113]

Reactions[edit]

Russia's human rights ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova said the power given to the Prosecutor General to designate groups "undesirable" without going to court contradicts the Russian constitution and condemned the lack of a right to appeal.[114][115]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson said that the law was an attempt to further isolate and discredit members of civil society who were critical of the government.[116]

Britain's Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said it was "yet another example of the Russian authorities' harassment of NGOs and those who work with them in Russia".[117]

The US State Department stated it was "deeply troubled" by the law and expressed concern that it "will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia and is a further example of the Russian government's growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world".[118] The Deputy Chief of the US Mission to the OSCE Permanent Council urged the Russian government "to uphold its international obligations and OSCE commitments to respect the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the rule of law."[119]

Amnesty International said the bill would "squeeze the life" from civil society, while Human Rights Watch warned it would be locals who would be worst-hit.[120] Veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the law as "another step toward lowering the curtain between our country and the West."[3]

On 13 June 2016, the opinion of the Venice Commission on Russian undesirable organizations law[121] was published. According to the Venice Commission conclusion, Russian undesirable organizations law consists of vague definition of certain key concepts, such as "non-governmental organisations", which determines whether the activities of a foreign or international NGO may be declared undesirable, "directing of" and "participating in" the activities of a listed NGO, coupled with the wide discretion granted to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the lack of specific judicial guarantees in the Federal Law, contradicts the principle of legality. The automatic legal consequences (blanket prohibitions) imposed upon NGOs whose activities are declared undesirable (prohibition to organise and conduct mass actions and public events or to distribute information materials) may only be acceptable in extreme cases of NGOs constituting serious threat to the security of the state or to fundamental democratic principles. In other instances, the blanket application of these sanctions might contradict the requirement under the European Convention on Human Rights that the interference with the freedom of association and assembly has to respond to a pressing social need and has to be proportional to the legitimate aim pursued. Furthermore, the inclusion of an NGO in the List should be made on the basis of clear and detailed criteria following a judicial decision or, at least, the decision should be subject to an appropriate judicial appeal.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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