Russia brands 3 German NGOs 'undesirable'

Russia on Wednesday designated three German non-governmental organisations as “undesirable,” a move that drew sharp criticism from Berlin.

The Prosecutor General's office said that the organisations' activities “threaten the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.”

Russian authorities have already designated more than 30 foreign groups as “undesirable” organisations in line with a law that has been widely seen as part of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle criticism.

Two of the affected organisations were involved in the St. Petersburg Dialogue, a German-Russian forum bringing together civil society groups, think tanks and decision-makers from the two countries.

“To ban the work of organisations that strive for understanding between our two countries and peoples is a serious setback for our efforts to achieve better relations with Russia,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Nothing about their work can warrant or justify such a serious step,” said Maas. “I urge Russia to reverse this step and encourage the free exchange within civil society. Representatives of civil society must be allowed to do their work without being criminalised.”

Non-profit organizations, by law, are included in the register of “foreign agents” if they engage in political activities in Russia with foreign money. At the same time, the profile of NGOs included in the list of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation makes it clear: the range of their activities is very wide, and the focus of the work of many of them is not associated with politics.

In December 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing individuals to be counted among media “foreign agents”. Among the first citizens of the Russian Federation to receive this status are Lev Ponomarev, founder of the For Human Rights movement, Darya Apakhonchich, a St. Petersburg activist, and individual journalists from Pskov Province, 7×7 and Radio Liberty.

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