Blacklisted Russia has declared 12 organizations ‘undesirable’ so far this year. Here’s what you need to know about their work.
Since January, the Russian Attorney General’s Office has declared 12 organizations “undesirable,” on the grounds that they pose a threat to national security. The number of organizations that Russia deems “undesirable” grows with each passing year and at this rate 2022 is also poised to see a new record. Meduza sums up what you need to know about the organizations blacklisted so far this year.
WOT Foundation (WOT-Fund)
Established in Poland in 2016, the WOT Foundation gets its funding from a variety of Polish and international organizations. Its founder, Georgy Nurmanov, left Russia for Poland after the Bolotnaya Square protests. He opened a pelmeni business in Warsaw and, after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, began volunteering to help Ukrainian refugees.
The WOT Foundation is involved in projects concerning human rights, the development of independent media, and the integration of migrants in Poland. Its stated aim is to facilitate “Polish-Russian civil society dialogue.” In 2018, the foundation hosted a seminar in Warsaw for journalists specializing in international reporting. The next year, it took part in the Boris Nemtsov Forum.
Russia declared the WOT Foundation “undesirable” on January 25, 2022.
Free Idel-Ural is a social and political movement that was founded in Kyiv in 2018. Its head, Rafis Kashapov, previously led the Naberezhnye Chelny chapter of the All-Tatar Public Center. A Russian court outlawed the branch for alleged extremism in 2017 (Tatarstan’s Supreme Court shut down the rest of the organization in 2021). Kashapov himself was sentenced to three years in prison in 2015 for condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He left Russia following his release.
Free Idel-Ural’s stated mission is to fight for the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Volga regions and the Urals, as well as for the independence of Mordovia, Chuvashia, Mari El, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Bashkortostan. “Our goal is the collapse of Russia and the creation of new states from its ruins,” the movement’s website says.
Russia declared Free Idel-Ural “undesirable” on February 16, 2022.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP, for short) is a global network of investigative journalists and outlets. It was established in 2007 by American social entrepreneur Drew Sullivan and Romanian investigative journalist Paul Radu. The OCCRP’s most well-known project is the Panama Papers.
Russia declared The Journalism Development Network (JDN), which operates OCCRP, an “undesirable” organization on February 22, 2022.
iStories (or “Important Stories”) is an independent Russian investigative outlet that was launched in 2020 by Roman Anin, a former investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta. iStories has published notable investigations about Vladimir Putin’s alleged former son-in-law, the offshore dealings of the “president’s friends,” and Rosneft acquiring a stake in the Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli (Rosneft took iStories to court over the latter story and won).
In the spring of 2021, federal agents raided Roman Anin’s home as part of a criminal case launched over an investigative report he wrote in 2016 about a luxury yacht belonging to Olga Sechina, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin’s then-wife. Russia’s Justice Ministry declared iStories and a number of its correspondents “foreign agents” in August 2021.
Russia designated iStories’s legal entity (the Latvia-based company iStories fonds) as an “undesirable” organization on February 22, 2022.
Also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House is an independent policy institute that was founded in London in 1920. Its first chairman was Robert Cecil, one of the architects of the League of Nations and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Chatham House is under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II, but it does not receive funding from the British government.
Chatham House publishes the journals International Affairs, The World Today, and the Journal of Cyber Policy, as well as the Insights book series and the Undercurrents podcast. In a 2015 report titled “The Russian Challenge,” Chatham House researchers suggested that the war in eastern Ukraine could lead to a direct clash between Russia and European states. A Russian lawmaker compared the report to Cold War-era propaganda.
Russia declared Chatham House “undesirable” on April 7, 2022.
The Crimean Human Rights Group
A non-profit organization of Crimean human rights activists and journalists that was founded in Ukraine after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. The Russian authorities blocked The Crimean Human Rights Group’s website in 2021.
“We talked about how Russia hides the real facts about the pandemic situation, how it puts people at real risk of contracting the coronavirus, how it uses the education system to militarize Crimean children, and about many other things,” said CHRG head Olga Skrypnyk at the time.
Russia declared the CHRG “undesirable” on May 4, 2022.
Heinrich Böll Foundation
A think tank with close ties to the German Green Party, the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s “primary task is political education in Germany and abroad to promote the democratic will, socio-political commitment, and international understanding.” The foundation was established in 1996 and it now has offices in more than 30 countries.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation opened an office in Russia in 1999 and it went on to become one of the largest German foundations in the country. It supported nonprofit organizations, held summer schools and conferences, and offered scholarships and grants for researchers, students, and civil society activists.
Russia declared the Heinrich Böll Foundation “undesirable” on May 20, 2022.
An independent investigative journalism initiative founded by Eliot Higgins, a British finance and admin worker turned blogger and citizen journalist who rose to prominence for his open-source analysis of weapons used in the Syrian civil war.
Bellingcat was founded in 2014. Its most well-known investigations include reports on the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
Russia designated Bellingcat as a “foreign agent” in the fall of 2021. Its website was blocked in Russia in March 2022. The Russian Attorney General’s Office declared Bellingcat’s legal entities “undesirable” on July 13.
An independent Russian media outlet founded in 2013. The Insider specializes in investigative journalism and is most well-known for its joint reporting with Bellingcat on Russia’s involvement in the downing of flight MH17 and the poisoning of Alexey Navalny.
The Russian Justice Ministry declared The Insider a “foreign agent” in July 2021. Not long after, Moscow police raided the home of its founder and editor-in-chief, Roman Dobrokhotov, in connection with a libel case opened over a tweet. Dobrokhotov then left Russia and the authorities initiated a criminal case against him on charges of illegal border crossing. A Moscow court ordered Dobrokhotov’s arrest in absentia on August 4, 2022.
Like Bellingcat, The Insider was declared an “undesirable” organization on July 13, 2022.
The Central and Eastern European Law Initiative Institute (also known as the CEELI Institute) is an independent nonprofit organization. Founded in Prague in 1999, its mission is “to advance the rule of law in the world in order to protect fundamental rights and individual liberties.” The CEELI Institute organizes training programs and conferences in the field of law and has “worked with over 10,000 judges, lawyers and civil society representatives from over 45 countries” since its founding.
Russia declared the CEELI Institute an “undesirable” organization on July 13, 2022.
Open Estonia Foundation
Established in 1999 with the support of Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist George Soros, the Open Estonia Foundation aims “to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens.”
Since 2010, the Open Estonia Foundation has organized the Voices of Russia discussion series, which features Russian opposition activists, human rights advocates, and journalists.
Russia declared the Open Estonia Foundation “undesirable” on July 19, 2022. Its executive director, Mall Hellam, said the designation won’t affect the organization in any way.
Calvert 22 Foundation
A cultural foundation established in 2009 by Russian-born British economist Nonna Materkova. The Calvert 22 Foundation describes itself as “the UK’s leading cultural institution dedicated to promoting and supporting the new culture of the New East.”
The Calvert 22 Foundation collaborates with top universities and museums (St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum is one of its partners), and is perhaps best known for publishing The Calvert Journal, an award-winning online magazine covering contemporary culture in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. (The Calvert Journal ceased publication indefinitely following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine).
From 2012–2018, the Calvert 22 Foundation’s board of trustees included Alexey Kudrin, who now heads Russia’s Accounts Chamber. In 2018, Nonna Materkova took part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), an event that traditionally includes a speech by Vladimir Putin.
Russia declared the Calvert 22 Foundation “undesirable” on August 1, 2022.