Russia's Memorial ordered to register as 'foreign agent'

30th April 2013, Comments 0 comments

Prominent Russian rights group Memorial said Tuesday that prosecutors had warned that it must register as a "foreign agent" under a controversial new law seen as targeting groups with opposition views.

The warning came as officials carried out a wave of searches of hundreds of NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch beginning last month.

Memorial chronicles the victims of Stalin-era repressions in its world-respected archive, but also speaks out on contemporary issues and helps refugees.

Moscow city prosecutors gave it a month to register as a foreign agent, Memorial said in a statement.

"Memorial does not intend to declare itself a 'foreign agent' and will appeal the prosecutors' statement after studying it carefully."

The warning from prosecutors came after it issued similar warnings to two local branches in Ryazan in central Russia and Komi in the remote north.

"We have never engaged in political activity and are not engaged in it now," the Ryazan group's leader, historian Andrei Blinushov, said in a statement posted on Memorial's website.

"We consider the prosecutors' warning illegal and without basis and we will appeal its provisions in court."

The head of Memorial's Saint Petersburg branch, Olga Abramenko, told Interfax news agency late Tuesday that it had also been charged with breaching the foreign agent law.

Memorial's office in Moscow was last month defaced with graffiti saying "Foreign agent loves USA."

The law on "foreign agents" requires groups that carry out political activities and receive international funding to register and name themselves as "foreign agents" in all their documents.

Its loose wording has seen it implemented against diverse groups including ones that lobby for better treatment of genetic diseases.

The first group to be fined under the law was Golos election monitoring group. This week it was ordered to pay $13,000 even though it insists its work in training observers is politically neutral and that it had returned its only foreign donation since the law came into force.

© 2013 AFP

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