MOSCOW, April 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russian prosecutors have opened a case against a regional non-governmental organization accused of not registering as a “foreign agent” in the wake of a wave of inspections of NGOs, a rights group reported on Tuesday.
Alexander Zamaryanov, director of the Kostroma Public Initiatives Support Center, is suspected of being involved in political activities and receiving foreign funding while not being registered as a “foreign agent” as required by a controversial new law.
Prosecutors in the town of Kostroma reportedly opened the case after a roundtable on U.S.-Russian relations was held by the NGO on February 28, the Agora advocacy group, which will represent the organization, said in a statement.
The roundtable – titled “Resetting the Reset: Where Are Russian-American Relations Heading?” – was attended by Howard Solomon, deputy minister counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Russia.
Prosecutors say that the NGO has received foreign funding since 2011, including from unnamed U.S.-based sources, so it has to register as a “foreign agent,” Agora said in its statement.
The NGO’s activities, the prosecutors claim, prove that the organization is involved in “shaping public opinion about state policies on Russia’s territory.”
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Zamaryanov now faces a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,500), while the NGO could have to pay up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900).
The Kostroma-based NGO is the second organization to have a case opened against it under the new law obliging NGOs that receive any foreign funding and are involved into political activities to register as “foreign agents,” a term that critics have complained is misleading and smacks of Cold War rhetoric, conjuring up associations of spying.
Earlier this month, independent election watchdog Golos became the first Russian NGO to be charged under the controversial new law that came into force in November last year and has been strongly opposed by human rights advocates.
State officials have inspected dozens of NGOs across the country in the past few weeks to see how the law is being implemented, but have come under fire from international human rights groups and Western governments for carrying out unannounced and lengthy inspections.