“Until prosecutors all over Russia set to work unmasking “foreign agents,” 80-year-old Raisa’s biggest worry was whether her tiny pension would ever allow her to get the false teeth she covets. Raisa — last name Golubyatnikova — cheerfully admits she’s in league with Vladimir Lazarev, 88, who hobbles with the help of a thin red cane across the gritty snow and ice that clings so stubbornly to this city east of Moscow,” The Washington Post’s Kathy Lally reports from Murom, Russia:
Soldiers’ Mothers Committee Chair Irina Reznikova said the organization did not engage in politics during the elections, but its members reported violations as civic-minded private individuals. Furthermore, the reporting of violations in the elections occurred before the adoption of the law on NGOs, she said, adding it appears prosecutors have applied the law retroactively, contrary to the Constitution.
The committee, established in 1991 to protect the rights of soldiers and their families, could face a fine of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900), RIA Novosti reports.
Memorial was one of thousands of NGOs subjected to raids earlier this month. The groups has heard nothing since, but the Justice Ministry is bringing charges against Golos, Russia’s only independent election monitor, for failing to register as a foreign agent.
“Although Golos was founded with U.S. help, its leaders said they have stopped accepting money from abroad,” Lally reports.
The US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul recently met with members of Russia’s Public Chamber to express concern over the unprecedented crackdown on civil society groups. Russian officials responded with claims that US funders of Russian NGOs were headed by spies and former military officials.
Russian prosecutors claim that some NGOs violate the Foreign Agents law, while the Foreign Ministry defended the NGO probes as lawful and criticized a US commitment to continue NGO funding as “direct instigating of certain non-governmental and public structures to violate legislation related to the work of non-governmental organizations in the Russian Federation.”
Up to 2,000 organizations were targeted with inspections and searches last month, said Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora NGO and a member of the presidential Human Rights Council.