Russian lawmakers issue list of NGOs they want investigated

AP News
|
Posted: Jul 08, 2015 1:34 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's upper house of parliament urged authorities on Wednesday to investigate whether some prominent foreign organizations, including the MacArthur Foundation and Freedom House, are a threat to Russia.

The so-called "patriotic stop-list" of a dozen groups sent to the prosecutor-general and the justice and foreign ministries also names the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and the Open Society Foundation of billionaire George Soros. Two Ukrainian ethnic organizations are also on the list.

The upper chamber, the Federation Council, asked authorities to investigate the groups' activities in Russia with a view to possibly declaring them undesirable and shutting them down. A recently passed law says organizations can be declared undesirable if they threaten Russia's defense or constitutional order.

The move comes as suspicion and antipathy toward the West grows in Russia, as officials and state media allege other countries aim to force President Vladimir Putin from power and block Russia from re-establishing itself as a world power.

Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house, said the move came because "it's the first time in a quarter of a century that we have encountered such unprecedented political and economic pressure on Russia."

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, which is not on the list, said the move was about creating a climate of intimidation.

"It's about creating this atmosphere — this climate of fear, suspicion, danger — about inciting self-censorship among critical organizations," she said.

MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch said the move "rests on a serious misunderstanding of our activities in Russia.

"The MacArthur Foundation is entirely independent of and receives no funding from the United States government. We do not engage in or support political activities," she said in a statement.

___

Albina Kovalyova in Moscow contributed to this report.