MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) – A recent series of spot checks on non-governmental organizations in Russia that caused outcry among rights advocates is aimed at establishing their compliance with laws against extremism and the legalization of criminal income, the Prosecutor General's Office said Thursday. Nationwide NGO inspections have been taking place since last month, and most observers had linked them to a new law that tightens control on NGOs and obliges those that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” Many NGO activists have complained of unexpected and time-consuming raids.
“In connection with information about prohibited organizations continuing their activities under a different name, as well as about newly formed ultra-nationalist and radical religious organizations, inspections on NGOs were conducted to verify, among other things, their compliance with legal requirements on countermeasures against extremism activities and legalization of income obtained by criminal means,” said Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office.
The results of the inspections, she said, will help to identify positive and negative trends in the sphere of NGOs, as well as problems and possible solutions, including by amending legislation.
Gridneva added that the Prosecutor General’s Office will also promptly examine all complaints from non-governmental organizations concerning possible violations during inspections in their offices.
“All complaints from NGOs concerning violations of their rights and legal interests during the course of inspections will be considered promptly, and the complainants will be notified of the results,” Gridneva said.
According to Russia’s NGO Agora, which has provided legal support to many political activists, including the Pussy Riot punk band, over 80 organizations have been audited in 24 regions across Russia during the recent wave of checks.
Agora’s director Pavel Chikov, who is also a member of the Presidential Council of Human Rights, said on Thursday that inspections primarily targeted NGOs dealing with human rights and environmental issues, as well as organizations that influence public opinion.
“The Prosecutor’s Office is primarily interested in organizations that deal with the formation of public opinion, political activities … as well as organizations that receive foreign funding,” Chikov said. “The main focus is on human rights and environmental organizations.”
Earlier this week, state agencies confiscated a stack of documents from the offices of Amnesty International and also paid a second visit to the Memorial rights group. Also among those targeted this week were two German organizations: the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), a political think tank with ties to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party.
The prominent organization Human Rights Watch and several regional offices of the French Alliance Française, an international organization promoting French language and culture, were also among those inspected.