MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) that accused the Kremlin of widespread vote-rigging and was later labeled a “foreign agent” has been denied state funding for its ongoing vote-monitoring projects.
Golos applied for a 14 million ruble ($420,000) share of 2.3 billion rubles ($69 million) that the presidential administration is allotting to NGOs this year.
However, Golos did not made the shortlist of 1,087 grant-worthy applicants – from a total of almost 6,000, according to the Public Chamber, an advisory body created by the Kremlin that announced grant recipients Wednesday.
The list of recipients includes a union of missile forces veterans, a prize for women serving in security services, and two high-profile projects by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi.
Several rights groups with a track record of criticizing the Kremlin also applied for grants. However, Golos was the only prominent group whose application was rejected.
Golos was sidelined because the Russian government is ready to admit problems with corruption and rights abuse, but not elections, Grigory Melkonyants, deputy executive director of Golos, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
“The authorities think vote-monitoring is very dangerous … because it undermines their legitimacy,” he said.
The Kremlin made no formal comment on Golos’ allegations, but the Kommersant newspaper on Thursday cited an undisclosed official in the presidential administration as saying the NGO was punished for its refusal to recognize itself as a “foreign agent.”
Golos was among dozens of NGOs accused by prosecutors earlier this year of qualifying as a foreign agent, or a group involved in political activity and receiving funding from abroad. Under a controversial 2012 law, such NGOs have to give up on overseas donations or deal with extra red tape.
Golos – which claimed it accepted foreign funding because no domestic funding was available – eventually shut down, but reopened last month as a new legal entity with the same name.
The group ran a hotline and an online map for reporting electoral violations during the 2011 parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential vote, won by Vladimir Putin. The NGO claimed that 10 to 20 percent of the votes received by the winning pro-Kremlin United Russia party and Putin were rigged, though the allegations were never confirmed in court.
“We’ll continue on grassroots fund-raising, including donations from businesses,” said Melkonyants, whose group is gearing up for a round of regional elections on September 8.