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22.03.2013

Russia’s Memorial and other NGOs searched

   

Memorial reports that the Prosecutor’s Office, Justice Ministry and Tax Service appeared on Thursday at its office in Moscow to carry out a check.  This was apparently one of hundreds of similar “checks” of NGOs in the latest worrying slide into Soviet tactics.

What marked the visitation to Memorial was the appearance ahead of all the others of a producer from the pro-Kremlin NTV channel together with a cameraman.  Their arrival and activities had not been agreed in advance with Memorial.

It is most unlikely that they would have been agreed given NTV’s recent prowess in producing – almost certainly to order – anti-opposition “documentaries”. 

The abduction of Leonid Razvozzhaev from the centre of Kyiv when he was applying for asylum and his return to Moscow came after interrogations of leftwing opposition figures, including Razvozzhaev and Sergei Udaltsov, , following allegations in the second anti-opposition programme on NTV.

RfEL reports that there were similar visitations throughout Russia.  It points out that the notorious law requiring NGOs which receive funding from abroad to register with the Justice Ministry as "foreign agents.” “make it possible for targeted NGOs to be subjected to regular and unannounced inspections. Violations of the law are punishable by sizeable financial penalties or potential imprisonment.”

The Head of Memorial, Alexander Cherkasov says that in the Rostov area, prosecutors arrived at one organization with health officials who demanded documents proving no one there had tuberculosis. 

Similar searches were being conducted at NGOs across Russia.

In an interview with RFE/RL, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council said that thousands of organizations had been searched. "These inspections should be completed by the end of April and there will be a summary report generated by the Prosecutor-General's Office."

Chikov is also the head of the Russian nongovernmental organization Agora, which provides legal services to civic activists. He said inspectors were checking a wide variety of organizations.

"In Krasnodar Krai, for example, computers were seized from [nongovernmental] organizations. In several regions, they've been checking ethnic and cultural autonomies and religious organizations, "  "In Rostov Oblast, for instance, they inspected a Roman Catholic Church parish, and in Novosibirsk, police showed up at a mosque."

Chikov said the prosecutor general's office had ordered every region in Russia to check all religious, political, and social NGOs for violations of Russia's vaguely worded "extremism" law.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFE/RL that Washington has shared its concerns about the raid with Moscow and will "continue to keep in close contact with those organizations affected."

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