The United States is deeply troubled by the Russian Government’s continued restrictions against civil society organizations in Russia. Most recently, Russian authorities have declared the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation as “undesirable,” banning them from continuing to give grants to Russian partners.
The move is part of a sweeping government crackdown on NGOs which further isolates the Russian people from the world.
A law passed in May 2015, authorizes Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office to ban as undesirable, foreign or international organizations that allegedly undermine Russia’s security, defense, or constitutional order. In July, the National Endowment for Democracy was the first organization to be declared an “undesirable organization.”
“This move against [the Open Society Foundations] shows the Russian Government is moving full steam ahead to close space for independent groups and public debate in Russia,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ‘undesirables’ law and its implementation have been a terrible blow for civic freedoms in Russia.”
Under this legislation, Russians who maintain ties with so-called “undesirable” civil society groups face penalties ranging from fines to a maximum six years in prison. This is only one of many measures the Russian Government has taken since 2012 to crack down on independent groups, according to Human Rights Watch.
Russian authorities are also attacking domestic NGOs through the so-called “foreign agents” law. As of December 1, 105 Russia NGOs have been designated as “foreign agents” under legislation used to limit the activities of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving foreign financing.
The Russian people deserve an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution.
The United States urges Russia to uphold its international obligations and commitments to respect the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the rule of law.