Russian authorities are reportedly searching the offices of hundreds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including those of Memorial, one of the country’s oldest rights organizations.
The head of Memorial, Aleksandr Cherkasov, said on March 21 that prosecutors arrived “with representatives of another department,” without specifying which department.
He said the searches were said to be for verifying organizations were operating in accordance with current laws.
Cherkasov said that in the Rostov area, prosecutors arrived at one organization with health officials who demanded documents proving no one there had tuberculosis.
Cherkasov said similar searches were being conducted at NGOs across Russia.
Russia’s presidential Human Rights Council wrote to the country’s prosecutor-general on March 21 saying it had been bombarded with complaints from NGOs.
In an interview with RFE/RL, council member Pavel Chikov said thousands of organizations had been searched.
“In St. Petersburg, they’re inspecting 100 organizations; in Saratov Oblast, it’s 70 organizations; in Krasnodar Krai, it’s 40; and so on. So, the scale of this campaign spans several thousand organizations nationwide,” Chikov said.
“These inspections should be completed by the end of April and there will be a summary report generated by the Prosecutor-General’s Office.”
Chikov is also the head of the Russian nongovernmental organization Agora, which provides legal services to civic activists. He said inspectors were checking a wide variety of organizations.
“In Krasnodar Krai, for example, computers were seized from [nongovernmental] organizations. In several regions, they’ve been checking ethnic and cultural autonomies and religious organizations,” he said.
“In Rostov Oblast, for instance, they inspected a Roman Catholic Church parish, and in Novosibirsk, police showed up at a mosque.”
He called the inspection campaign “unprecedented” and added “nothing like that has happened in the past 10 years — or ever before.”