Russia has listed the American-supported National Endowment for Democracy as its first “undesirable” organization under a new law. Under the measure, the Russian government can ban some foreign non-governmental organizations when it says they endanger national security. Financing for the targeted NGOs must come from overseas.
The United States Congress provides financial support for the National Endowment for Democracy, known as NED.
Russian government lawyers announced late last month that NED is banned from operating in any way in the country. They said an investigation found the group presented a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, its defense capabilities and state security.
In return, NED accused Russia of using the undesirable law to threaten and “isolate” Russian citizens.
United States officials condemned Russia’s move. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow expressed concern over the ruling's wider implications for Russian civil society.
The move against NED comes several months after President Vladimir Putin approved the law. The measure gives the government extensive powers to close international organizations that it considers “undesirable.”
A few weeks ago, Russia's upper house of parliament passed a list of organizations that prosecutors said were suspect. The list included NED and several other American NGOs, including Freedom House, Open Society, and the MacArthur Foundation.
The Russian government has long accused the U.S. and Europe of using NGOs to support political unrest in countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union. It says they supported revolutions that ousted pro-Russian governments in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan.
Four years ago, demonstrators filled the streets of Moscow following evidence of cheating in elections. Reports said the cheating was aimed at keeping Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party in power. During the unrest, Russian officials blamed the United States, and Western-financed Russian NGOs, for inciting the unrest.
When Vladimir Putin was re-elected to the presidency in May of 2012, new legislation was proposed. The measure required Russian NGOs to register as "foreign agents” for receiving money from overseas and taking part in what officials called "political activities."
Leading civil society activists say the term "foreign agents" is similar to being accused of treason. They have tried unsuccessfully to change the term through Russia's courts.
The Committee to Prevent Torture is a longtime, Russian human rights group. Its director, Igor Kalyapin, accused Russian officials of using the "foreign agents" law as much as possible in an effort to please the government.
He says, "I know the history of my country and I know that when these types of repressive measures appear, there is competition."
And now, he says, the competition is to see who can find the most foreign agents.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Charles Maynes reported this story from Moscow. Marsha James adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
isolate – v. to separate or remove from others
implication – n. a possible future effect or result