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Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged to respond to crackdown of Russian NGOs

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights urged Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski to spare no effort, both in the bilateral relations with Russia and at the level of international organisations, to counteract threats to the functioning of the civil society in that country. The HFHR responded to thorough inspections of Russian non-governmental organisations carried out by the country’s authorities in the last several weeks.

These actions are a constituent part of the governmental campaign against the civic activity in Russia, started already in 2012. In Saint Petersburg alone, authorities announced about one hundred inspections.

The first audits were carried out in late February in Saratov, a city in the southern part of the country. Early in March, first Moscow-based organisations were inspected. In the majority of cases, inspections are conducted by, among others, prosecutors, tax officials and personnel of the Russia’s ministry of justice. Sometimes, audits are performed by security services operatives, fire service staff and sanitary authority officials.

“For us, limiting the freedom of non-governmental organisations constitutes an attack on the rights of individuals which are defended by the NGOs”, says Danuta Przywara, President of the HFHR.

According to reports, the officials appear at the premises of the organisations together with news teams of the government-controlled NTV television channel. On the same day, the channel broadcast news reports that depict independent NGOs in a way undermining the accuracy and integrity of their operations. In many instances, the organisations have been subject to surprise inspections without any advance notice.

“The inspections recently conducted in Russia are without precedence. The whole exercise looks like a carefully planned action”, says Andrei Blinushov, Chairman of Ryazan regional branch of Memorial, a human rights advocacy. “Officials with the prosecution service have been demanding hundreds of documents, emphasising that they need to check if the organisation is involved in the so-called ‘extremist activities’”, adds Mr Blinushov.

Inspections are carried out almost simultaneously in hundreds of the non-governmental organisations across Russia.

On 19 December 2012, the Memorial Society received the award “Pro Dignitate Humana”, a distinction from the Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Now, Memorial and other Russian non-governmental organisations are looking for support and help from the entire international community”, says Danuta Przywara.

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