Russia labels Alexei Navalny’s group ‘foreign agent’
Russian has labelled the organisation run by opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a “foreign agent”.
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which often publishes studies into government figures, will now face increased oversight and will have to refer to itself as a “foreign agent” on official documentation.
In 2012 Moscow opened a list of foreign agent organisations, which implies spying for a foreign government.
It requires non-profit, charitable and civil society organisations that have foreign funding and engage in political activity to declare themselves “foreign agents”.
The groups then automatically become subject to additional requirements and failure to meet them could result in their suspension.
Opponents accuse the government of trying to silence critics and block basic freedoms.
The authorities deny this, saying the law prevents foreign interference in Russian internal affairs.
The “foreign agent” designation has forced many groups to close down.
The foundation’s director Ivan Zhdanov said the new label was “another attempt to suffocate” the FBK, “forcing us to stop issuing our investigations”.
Zhdanov tweeted that the foundation was “funded exclusively by Russian citizens” and received no overseas funding.
He said all its activities were transparent and the group’s lawyers would consider an appeal once an official notice was received from the justice ministry.
The ministry said the decision to classify Navalny’s non-commercial foundation as a “foreign agent” was taken following an audit while providing no further details.
In August, Russia launched a money-laundering investigation into the organisation, which asks for public donations, accusing it of receiving illegally earned money.
Investigators raided Navalny’s regional offices and his supporters’ homes in September, following major protests in Moscow and elsewhere this summer against bans on opposition candidates running in municipal elections.
Navalny, 43, a former anti-corruption lawyer, instructed supporters to vote tactically to block the Kremlin-backed candidates in the September 8 municipal elections.
He missed some demonstrations because of a 30-day jail term for organising previous unauthorised anti-government protests.
His candidacy in last year’s presidential election was banned by the authorities over his conviction by a Russian court for embezzlement, which bars him from running for political office.
The opposition chief denies the accusations, saying his legal troubles are state reprisals for his criticism.
Navalny, as the most effective Putin critic and an effective campaigner, has faced repeated legal action to disrupt his activities.
He emerged into the public eye in 2008 when he started blogging about alleged malpractice and corruption at state-run corporations.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (left) in 2013. Picture credit: Wikimedia