The Russian government's list of so-called undesirable organizations has grown yet again. This time authorities have banned the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, or IRI, and the Media Development Investment Fund, or MDIF, from operating in Russia. The United States, said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby, is "deeply troubled by the Russian government's decision."
Throughout the world the IRI and MDIF promote openness, accountability in government, and media freedom, principles Russia should seek to promote, not to suppress. In a press release the IRI said, "This move really says more about [Russian President] Vladimir Putin than it does about IRI. It's further proof that he fears democracy and allowing his people to have an opportunity to shape their own future."
Amnesty International Russia Director Sergei Nikitin said, "this move is designed to send yet another unmistakable message: Russian [non-governmental organizations] and independent media should steer clear of foreign funders and foreign funders should steer clear of Russia."
Under the 2015 Law on Undesirable Foreign Organizations, groups can be banned from operating on Russian soil if they are seen to pose a threat to the state's constitutional order, national defense, or security.
Other U.S. non-governmental organizations on Russia's list include the IRI's sister organization the National Democratic Institute and their funder, the National Endowment for Democracy.
The people of Russia deserve transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution. The United States again calls on the government of the Russia to uphold its international obligations and commitments to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and to eliminate such restrictions on the important work of civil society organizations in Russia.