RFE/RL: Russia has for the first time branded individuals as “foreign agents,” including three who contribute to RFE/RL. Five journalists or activists in total were added to the Russian Justice Ministry’s registry of “foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent” on December 28. Previously only foreign-funded, nongovernmental rights organizations (NGOs) and rights groups were placed on the registry, in keeping with Russia’s passage of its controversial “foreign-agents law” in 2012. The law was later expanded to include media outlets and independent journalists. Inclusion on the registry imposes additional restrictions, such as the obligation to provide regular financial reports on activities and in the way publications are labeled. The legislation has been criticized by rights groups, who say the law has harmed NGOs and is used to clamp down on dissent. The three listed individuals affiliated with RFE/RL are: Lyudmila Savitskaya and Sergei Markelov, freelance correspondents for the North Desk (Sever.Realii) of RFE/RL’s Russian Service; and Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online news site Pskov Province and a contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service. Prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov was also named to the registry, as was activist and Red Cross worker Daria Apakhonchich.
RFE/RL: At least three people are dead, including two law enforcement officers, after a shoot-out in the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya. Unknown assailants initiated the assault on police on December 28, local media quoted sources as saying. Interfax and TASS said the attackers opened fire on police, while other media said they attacked the officers with knives as they tried to disarm the law enforcement officials. Interfax reported that two attackers were killed when police fired on them, while TASS said one was killed. A search operation is now under way in the area as police investigate the attack. Chechnya and Russia’s other mostly Muslim-populated North Caucasus regions are the site of frequent fighting between government forces and militants whose insurgency stems from two post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya.