MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Ministry of Justice said on Tuesday it was filing a legal suit against an election monitoring non-governmental organization, Golos (Voice), under the recently introduced law on “foreign agents.”
The ministry accused the country’s leading independent watchdog and its head Lilia Shibanova of receiving funds from abroad, but failing to declare the NGO as a “foreign agent.”
The ministry added that all documents in the case, which is the first in Russia under the new law, would be submitted to a court on Wednesday.
Shibanova denied the allegations, saying her organization has not received foreign funding since the law on “foreign agents” came into force.
“I do not know on what grounds it [the ministry] is submitting the case. Golos does not receive foreign funding,” Shibanova said, adding that she was ready to go to court.
Russia’s controversial new law, obligating non-governmental organizations financed from abroad and involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents,” came into force last November.
The move to open a legal case against Golos comes in the wake of nationwide NGO inspections that have been taking place in Russia since March. Most observers linked them to the new law. Many NGO activists have complained about unexpected and time-consuming raids.
Recently targeted NGOs include the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch, corruption watchdog Transparency International and the Kazan-based advocacy group Agora. Agora provides legal support to many political activists.
The Prosecutor General's Office said on March 28 that the recent series of spot checks on NGOs in Russia is aimed at establishing their compliance with laws against extremism and ensuring that no criminal income is being legalized.