The wave of police raids against NGOs, foreign cultural organisations and human rights groups continues in Russia, with the latest targets the Helsinki group, and Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation.
Last month President Vladimir Putin announced that to crack down on “terrorism” he would be focusing on “foreign agents”. That was seen as a veiled threat, which now appears to have turned into action.
“The authorities will drown in the mass of paperwork they seized
from dozens of organisations in Moscow. They won’t deal with
most of it, they’ll just rubber-stamp it in advance of decisions already
made on organisations that they want to brand as foreign agents,”
said Memorial’s chairman Oleg Orlov.
The Presidential Council on Human Rights, an umbrella organisation where NGOs can debate and seek advice, has responded to the crackdown.
“The Prosecutor General will analyse the organisations‘ activities,which to one degree or another, with a bit of stretching, will be
classed as political activity. Then, if you are engaging in political
activity, you’ll be put on the foreign agents roster,” said human rights council member Pavel Chikov.
Putin has come under increasing pressure from his critics who insist his control-freak approach is strangling the very civil society Russia needs to develop a modern economy less reliant on energy and raw materials.