Russian government harassment and persecution of human rights and other civil society groups continues to worsen. For the first time, authorities have initiated a criminal investigation against a rights activist, Valentina Cherevatenko, for failing to comply with a controversial "foreign agents" law.
Passed in 2012, the law requires nongovernmental organizations to register as "foreign agents" with the Ministry of Justice if they engage in so-called political activity and receive foreign funding.
Ms. Cherevatenko, who is head of the human rights organization Women of the Don Foundation for Civil Society,” Development responded to the charges by saying, "We did not register with authorities because our organization did not and does not have the intention of receiving foreign funding and engaging in political activities."
The activist said her organization's offices were searched by investigators, police, and members of the security services, who seized documents and computers. Ms. Cherevatenko faces up to two years’ imprisonment if found guilty of violating Russia’s Foreign Agents Law.
The broadly defined "foreign agents" law has been applied to more than 100 Russian organizations, many of them forced to scale back their activities or shut down.
According to the latest State Department Human Rights report, one of the most alarming trends in Russia has been the government's passage of such new, repressive laws and its selective use of existing ones to systematically harass, discredit, prosecute, imprison, detain, fine, and suppress individuals and organizations engaged in activities critical of the government. Aside from NGOs, those affected include independent media outlets, bloggers, political opposition members, and activists.
The United States calls on Russia to repeal laws and policies that impede the work of Russian civil society and violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals like Valentina Cherevatenko.