Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Andrey Yurov: Seven Theses on the New NGO Bill (video)

The members of the United Russia party in the Russian State Duma have proposed a substantial number of amendments to the legislation on non-profit organisations (hereinafter - ‘law’), with the declared aim of monitoring the foreign financing of non-profit organisations and labelling all who receive money from abroad as ‘foreign agents’.


1. The law is meaningless.

In their arguments, the Duma members claim that the law will protect the country from shadowy political influences. But for that purpose this law is totally wide of the mark. If you look at how political groups are really financed in various countries, you will find that it practically always takes place through cash transactions or commercial enterprises. In other words, by using this law to stem the flow of Western money through non-profit groups, the politicians are not solving any problems, but instead are creating a host of new ones. They are throwing the tax authorities and other bodies that investigate financial affairs off the scent. Instead of controlling the serious money which is possibly going towards certain political aims that comes from both East and West, the various security forces will be monitoring legal and transparent organisations. In my opinion, the people who developed this law either do not understand the true means employed to finance political projects, or they consciously want to throw the government bodies which monitor the transparency and legality of financial operations in Russia off the scent, and in so doing allow the financing of political activity, including extremists, to continue through other means.

2. The law is unprofessional.

By the looks of it, the people who wrote the proposed amendments are confusing the concepts of ‘policy’ and ‘politics’. The Russian word politika has two separate meanings, encompassing these two colossal areas. On entering any medical establishment, you will see a poster with a heading like ‘Our clinic’s policy on reducing infant mortality’. In this case the word politika means ‘policy’ - any assortment of strategic actions, aimed at achieving defined aims. This bears no relation at all to the struggle for power. ‘Policy’ is all that any social service or NGO should be involved in, regardless of whether it receives money from someone or not. Improvements in the way disabled people, socially deprived groups, homeless children and so on are treated all fall entirely under the word politika, but they have nothing to do with the race for power. Even rallies and demonstrations in support of these changes are a normal part of ‘policy’.

Power struggles come under the other area of politika, ‘politics’. But this is far from all this sphere entails - it also includes creating political systems, political procedures, political means to increase the transparency of those in authority, electoral procedures and so on. Therefore, only 1% of the meaning of the word politika actually implies association with struggles for power. I am inclined to agree that no state would want foreign money involved in this small area, but the law goes far beyond this, and the people who wrote it seemingly do not understand this at all and are not professionally qualified to do so.

3. The law is unfair.

It completely fails to target the right people. The real ‘agents of influence’ are in truth the officials who have money and accounts in foreign banks, who school their children in foreign universities, and so on. Many of these really are lobbyists, ‘agents of influence’ for the widest possible range of interests. They have off-shore holdings and pursue their own private interests in favour of those of the country. A war needs to be waged on these people, who use politics, involving various platforms and their official roles, either for their own private commercial interests, or even, potentially, for the interests of various foreign agents. Yes, these people do undoubtedly exist; it is just that the search is being carried out in the wrong place. They should search, primarily, amongst the authorities, because non-profit organisations do not have any influence over the authorities at the moment, and they never have.

4. The law is antisocial.

It is safe to say that 90% of all the money that is received from elsewhere by non-profit organisations goes to help normal Russian citizens in the form of legal help, social support, charity etc. With this law the Duma members are striking a blow against average, socially defenceless Russian citizens. When politicians pass a law like this, therefore, they do not care about the interests of citizens. They care about other interests, far from the so-called national interest, just as social policy should form part of the national interest of any modern state.

5. The law is anti-Russian.

It should be understood that this law primarily affects those who bring money into the country, who receive it openly, pay their taxes honestly, declare the money to the tax authorities and use if to provide social support and implement social policy. Non-profit organisations bring money into Russia from different sources - from private benefactors, from representatives of Russian communities abroad, etc. This law targets those who bring in money to solve the problems facing the country, rather than those who actually take money abroad. And I suspect that the culprits here are not non-profit organisations at all, but instead, possibly, people who have ties to officials or even Duma members. In this sense, this law is unpatriotic and anti-Russian. It hinders those who want to help our country.

6. The law is harmful.

It strikes an unimaginably large blow to the image of the country. Firstly, no civilised country can get away with proclaiming its own social organisations, people who are extremely patriotic at heart and work for the benefit of their country, to be ‘foreign agents’. The organisations have simply been taken and had fixed signs and stigmas attached to them. Secondly, the Duma members themselves set a very bad example. And if the fashion for this type of law were to suddenly spill over into neighbouring states, the CIS countries, it would make it very difficult for any Russian or international organisation to provide help to fellow Russians abroad, minorities, Russian communities etc. If this law is mirrored in other countries, the harm for the development of the Russian Federation as a modern state, ready to support its citizens in other countries, will be so great that no possible benefit (which, as we have seen from the previous theses, does not exist), could make up for the damage caused.

7. The law is dangerous.

It strikes a blow against the most constructive part of Russia’s civil society, against those very people who stabilise the situation at extremely strained moments in time. This implies that someone wants to rock the boat. Somebody wants the constructive forces (those who are currently trying to suppress various extremist tendencies, restraining various groups of people who for many reasons could now be taking to the streets, etc.) to cease to function. Somebody wants these constructive forces to be completely discredited in the eyes of society. This implies that someone wants disturbances. Someone wants revolutions and a lack of stability.

Why attack the last remaining constructive forces of civil society, rather than entering into dialogue with them and supporting them?

I wonder who is behind all of this?

I wonder why such a dangerous law has been passed?

And I wonder what the people passing a law like this want to achieve as a result?

By Andrei Yurov, Director of Development at the Moscow Helsinki Group, Honorary President of the International Youth Human Rights Movement