The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is extremely concerned about significant deterioration of the situation of independent non-governmental organisations in Russia in 2014. The Law No. 121-FZ (so-called “foreign agents” law) plays a dramatic role in the persecution of prominent non-governmental organisations and their members. The Russian state authorities keep performing unannounced inspections of NGOs leading to expansion of “foreign agents” list. A number of court appeals on past decisions have resulted in negative verdicts for NGOs; some are on- going. Several NGOs are to pay huge fines for failing to register voluntarily and may be financially unable to do that. These actions by the Russian authorities have already caused discontinuation of activities or even shutdown of several leading NGOs and have had dramatic negative impact on activities of dozens of other organisations and the overall ability of independent civil society to operate freely and without fear of persecution.
In December 2014, the official list of NGOs registered as “foreign agents” was expanded by inclusion of further 11 organisations. Among them are several members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – “Citizens’ Watch” (St. Petersburg), “Human Rights Resource Centre” (St. Petersburg), “Man and Law” (Republic of Mari El), and the All-Russian Movement for Human Rights (Moscow). On 16 January 2015, yet another member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – “Committee Against Torture” (Nizhny Novgorod) – was announced a “foreign agent”. Besides, such prominent organisations as the Moscow School of Civic Education (Moscow) and the Sakharov Centre (Moscow) were also labeled as “foreign agents” last month.