CSO of the Week: Prague Civil Society Centre

Week-ending 25 December 2020

On 21 December 2020 the Prague Civil Society Centre was one of four NGOs listed as ‘undesirable organisations’ under a law adopted in May 2015. Prague Civil Society Centre, based in the Czech Republic, works with civil society groups and independent media across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to connect with their communities, reach new audiences and strengthen their sustainability.


Prague Civil Society Centre website

OREANDA-NEWS, 21 December 2020: The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia has recognized the Czech non-governmental organization Prague Civil Society Center as undesirable. According to the agency, the organization “poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.” The Prague Civil Society Center develops civil society and independent media in 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Russia. It is funded by the governments of Sweden, the Czech Republic, the United States, the European Commission and Oak Foundation. “Based on the results of the study of the received materials in the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, it was decided to recognize the activities of the foreign non-governmental organization Prague Civil Society Center… as undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation,” the statement of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia says. Information about the decision was sent to the Ministry of Justice.

The Moscow Times: Russia has listed four NGOs, two civil society groups and one media outlet as “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” amid a renewed crackdown on critical voices this week. The Justice Ministry labeled three AIDS service organizations and one educational affiliate of exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia pro-democracy group as “foreign agents” Monday. St. Petersburg’s Humanitarian Action foundation, Oryol’s Phoenix Plus nonprofit, Yekaterinburg’s Aktsent social and legal aid group and the Open St. Petersburg education project received the label for “influencing” state policy.  The designations come as Russian lawmakers this week pushed through legislation expanding the “foreign agent” label to any politically active, foreign-funded individual. Failure to comply could lead to up to five years in prison if President Vladimir Putin signs the proposals into law. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office also declared the Prague Civil Society Centre and the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Association of Schools of Political Studies “undesirable” organizations in separate decisions announced Monday and Thursday. The civil society, independent media and education groups pose “a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional system and security,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Moscow Times, 25 December 2020: A former Moscow region official has been sentenced to 15 years in a maximum-security prison on corruption charges Friday, more than a year after a dramatic court hearing during which he attempted to take his own life. Alexander Shestun, the former head of the Serpukhov district of the Moscow region, was found guilty of taking bribes, fraud, money laundering and illegal participation in entrepreneurial activity, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.  In addition to his 15-year prison sentence, the Podolsk city court ordered Shestun to pay a fine of 49 million rubles ($661,000) and forbade him from holding government office for eight years after his release.  Prosecutors had originally asked the court to sentence him to 20 years in a maximum-security prison as well as to fine him 50 million rubles ($675,000) and recover 64 million rubles ($864,000) from him. Shestun denies his guilt and believes that the case against him is politically motivated. 

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RAPSI, 25 December 2020: Russia’s Justice Ministry refused to exclude a foundation established by Alexey Navalny from the list of NGOs acting as foreign agents, the Ministry’s press service reported Friday. Another NGO, which was denied removal from the register, is the Chelyabinsk Region’s diabetic social movement ‘Together’, the statement reads. Moreover, the Ministry included two foreign NGOs, the Prague Civil Society Centre and the Council of Europe’s Association of political research schools, in the list.

RFE/RL, 26 December 2020: The Russian Justice Ministry has expanded the list of so-called “foreign agents” to include a foundation of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny and other human rights and health-care organizations, the head of the international human rights group Agora said on December 25. Pavel Chikov said on Telegram that Navalny’s Foundation for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights was among those added to the list. The Justice Ministry at the same time refused to exclude Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) from it. Navalny announced the closure of the FBK in July after a court ordered the organization to pay 88 million rubles ($1.2 million) over a lawsuit filed by a food company associated with businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But FBK’s brand has survived although its texts, graphics, and other materials posted on its site now belong to the Foundation for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights, according to the FBK website.

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