16 november, 2020
How can we address the issue of public associations concealing support from abroad?
Author: Alexander Malkevich, no comments
I, along with my colleagues from the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, Artem Kiryanov and Nikita Danyuk, have submitted an appeal to the Ministry of Justice. We ask the Ministry to pay attention to the growing informational and political activity of several Russian public associations and associated individuals, presumably receiving financial, property and other support from foreign states or foreign citizens.
Regularly engaging in public oversight of the dissemination of inaccurate information on the Internet over the past six months, we have encountered a large number of projects, supposedly supported from abroad, aimed at de-legitimizing electoral procedures in the Russian Federation and lowering the level of public trust in legal institutions, thereby influencing the development of the political system as a whole. The increase in this kind of activity was especially noticeable during the nationwide vote on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation when we uncovered a record amount of fake messages deliberately thrown into the public space.
I believe that we must take measures to protect the country from potential foreign interference during the upcoming elections to the State Duma in 2021.
Interference by foreign states in the political life of Russia through NGOs is a real threat. Such organizations, previously deemed as foreign agents and abolished as legal entities, have become associations of natural persons and have once again intervened in the political process. These associations of natural persons should not receive funds that are unchecked from foreign sources through social networks and electronic wallets.
At present, Russia does not have a well-coordinated system of work with NGO-foreign agents. In this case, legal support is needed, according to Artem Kiryanov.
We urge you to analyze the gaps in Russian legislation in the field of regulating the activities of NPOs and public associations in more detail, as they can evade state control in terms of foreign funding.
In our appeal, we list the most common mechanisms to counter the statutory restrictions associated with granting an NGO the status of a foreign agent: using network formats of work; activities of public associations without state registration; actual participation of individuals in implementing projects of NGO-foreign agents without publicly declaring such actions.
In our opinion, all these mechanisms open up a wide range of opportunities for obtaining foreign support when implementing social and political activities in the Russian Federation, directly or indirectly in the interests of other states, and also masking such activities from the public and the law.
We urge the Ministry of Justice to pay attention to the need to improve legislation in order to facilitate public accessibility to information on foreign funding of public associations and associated persons.
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