File – Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in the Novo Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow, April 2015.
The United States has expressed concern over a new Russian law giving prosecutors the right to declare foreign and international non-governmental organizations “undesirable” and to fine or jail Russians who are involved with them.
The U.S. State Department said Saturday that it is “deeply troubled” by Russia’s new law that allows the government to ban activities of “undesirable” organizations and criminalizes “cooperation” with them.
“We are concerned this new power will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia and is a further example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world,” said State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
The legislation, which President Vladimir Putin signed into law earlier Saturday, states that foreign or international NGOs “may be deemed undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation” if their activities represent “a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, the country’s defense capability or the security of the state.”
Foreign or international NGOs deemed “undesirable” will no longer to be allowed conduct activities inside Russia, and Russian organizations will be prohibited from receiving funding from them.
Russian nationals who continue to “be involved” with such groups could face fines of up to $10,000 or even jail terms of up to six years.
Two leading international human rights groups have denounced the legislation.
New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty International said in a joint statement last week that the measure was part of “an ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society” in Russia.
Tatyana Lokshina, director of the Russia program at Human Rights Watch, told Interfax earlier this week that Russian organizations, not foreign and international NGOs, are the main target of the law.
“It is primarily targeted against Russian activists and Russia civic groups,” she told the news agency. “It aims to cut them off from international partners.”
Earlier this year, Putin accused Western intelligence agencies of using NGOs to “destabilize” Russia.
IN 2012, Russia passed legislation that permits authorities to label Russian NGOs which receive foreign funding as “foreign agents.”