MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian state officials continued a wave of raids on prominent rights organizations on Wednesday that activists describe as a renewed pressure campaign against non-governmental organizations in the country.
On Wednesday, officials from the Prosecutor General’s Office and tax control service targeted several more NGOs, including the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch, Transparency International and the Kazan-based advocacy group Agora.
Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, speaking by telephone from New York, said that the “wave of inspections … can only be seen as an effort to create a more menacing environment for organizations seen as involved in advocacy” and rights work.
Agora, which has provided legal assistance for many political activists, said that its director Pavel Chikov had been summoned to the prosecutor’s office in Tatarstan. The officials also asked for records on the NGO’s activities, registration and funding.
Nationwide audits into NGOs have been taking place since last month. The raids appear to be connected to the new law that tightens control on NGOs and obliges those that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” Many activists have commented on the thoroughness of the surprise inspections.
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As of Tuesday, Agora said it was aware of audits of 88 organizations having taken place in 24 regions across Russia during the recent wave of checks.
Earlier this week, the state agencies took away a stack of documents from the offices of Amnesty International, and also paid a second visit to the Memorial rights group. Among those targeted this week were also two German organizations: the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Tuesday that she found the inspection of NGOs in Russia “worrisome since they seem to be aimed at further undermining civil society activities in the country.”