Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial bill, which now bans the foreign NGOs operating in the country. These NGOs will now be declared ‘undesirable’ and their activities in Russia banned.
Any individuals working for such organisations will face heavy fines or jail sentencing up to six years.
Under this law, Russian financial institutions will not be able to carry out money or property transactions with those organisations placed on the undesirable list.
Russia’s critics say this move by Moscow is an attempt to stifle dissent.
According to a Russian news website Russia Beyond Headlines, a person who voluntary stops taking part in the activities of NGO listed as undesirable will be exempt from prosecution unless they have committed a criminal offense.
Russian news agency Interfax said that the new law will affect those organisations perceived to pose a threat to the ‘foundations of Russia’s constitutional order, defence capacity or security.”
The proponents of the new law say that this is necessary to protect Russia from international interference in the wake of the ongoing tension involving Ukraine. Human rights groups have attacked the new law. Amnesty International said that the new law will “squeeze the life” from civil society, Human Rights Watch said its impact will mostly be felt by the locals.
In 2012 too, Russia has passed a law, which required NGOs to register as “foreign agents” with the Ministry of Justice if they engaged in “political activity” and received foreign funding. This law had evoked sharp criticism from human rights groups, who argued that the definition of “political activity” under the law was so broad and vague that it could “extended to all aspects of advocacy and human rights work.”