4 December 2021
pictured: Sergei Krivenko, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and director of the NGO Citizen. Army. The Law
The Russian Justice Ministry has added four more journalists to the register of media outlets that are classified as “foreign agents.” They are all former or current employees of Idel.Realii [a Russian-language website set up in 2016 by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir Service — translator] which has already [in 2017] been included in the register of foreign agents. The register includes Alina Grigorieva, Andrei Grigoriev, Regina Gimalova and Regina Khisamova.
At the same time, an organisation dedicated to protecting the rights of conscripts, “Human Rights Defence Group: Citizen. Army. The Law,” was added to the register of NGOs declared to be “foreign agents.”
In October Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta [and Nobel laureate], put a question about foreign agents to President Vladimir Putin [at the annual meeting of the Valdai Club]. Muratov pointed out that the status of foreign agent is assigned without prior warning or a court hearing, and that the criteria applied are very vague. President Putin replied that the status of “foreign agent” “does not prevent [an individual or organisation so classified] from carrying out their work. It’s simply that money that is received from secretive foreign sources should be identified as such.” At the same time, however, the president promised to tackle the vagueness of the criteria. And, unexpectedly, Putin at a meeting on 3 December with the head of the Central Electoral Commission, Ella Pamfilova, said it was important to examine how the law is applied and to make certain adjustments. It is unclear, however, what kind of adjustments he had in mind.
Journalists from the Dozhd’ [“Rain”] television channel spoke with the director of the human rights defence group “Citizen. Army. The Law” and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group Sergei Krivenko. According to Krivenko, the Justice Ministry launched an unannounced check of Citizen. Army. The Law human-rights group in late October. The check was carried out “in response to an allegation made by a single citizen.” After that, the human rights defender said, the organisation began to expect that Citizen. Army. The Law would be declared a foreign agent. “We receive foreign funding and we have never hidden that. We take part in many funding competitions, some of which are held openly on the territory of our country, and we are currently in receipt of a grant from the European Union. We report every year to the Justice Ministry that we receive foreign funding; and we submit reports in the standard format, which is what all civil society organisations do. So, when the authorities declare that money must be flagged up and should be made visible, this is a kind of trick, because it already is visible,” Krivenko said.
Translated by Elizabeth Teague