Russia names US foundation first ‘undesirable’ foreign group
Russian prosecutors on Tuesday declared the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy the first "undesirable" foreign group under a controversial new law to ban overseas organisations perceived as a threat.
“Taking into account the overall aim of the Endowment’s work, prosecutors came to the conclusion that it presents a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, its defence capabilities and state security,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
Prosecutors accused the American non-profit organisation of using local NGOs to undermine elections and organise political rallies in the country.
“The National Endowment for Democracy participated in work to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, to organise political demonstrations aimed at influencing decisions taken by state institutions and to discredit service in the Russian armed forces,” the statement said.
The decision — which now needs to be rubber-stamped by the justice ministry — will see the Endowment barred from opening offices in Russia or funding any groups or individuals in the country.
Prosecutors said that in 2013 and 2014 the foundation gave funding worth around $5.2 million to local organisations.
The move comes as Russia and the West are locked in their worst standoff since the end of the Cold War over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russian officials led by President Vladimir Putin and state-owned media claim that the West is trying to sow revolution in the country after the ouster of a Kremlin-backed leader in Kiev in 2014.
Critics say that the authorities are whipping up anti-Western hysteria over alleged foreign meddling in a bid to further cement their political grip on Russia.
The controversial new law could see Russian activists jailed for up to six years for working with any banned organisation.
The National Endowment for Democracy says it receives funding from the US Congress to bolster organisations “working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.”
Activities in Russia it has given funding to listed on its website include anti-corruption groups, those working on freedom of association and human rights organisations.
Earlier this month, Russian senators compiled an official proposal to blacklist 12 foreign NGOs, including the National Endowment for Democracy.