Russian Justice Ministry says criticizing the law on ‘foreign agents’ is a sure sign of being one
Russia's Justice Ministry regards any criticism of the law on “foreign agents” to be a manifestation of political activity, which is legally off limits to foreign-funded NGOs. In other words, the Justice Ministry believes foreign-funded NGOs may not criticize Russia's foreign agents law.
Justice Ministry officials say it is illegal for any organizations on Russia's list of “foreign agents” to engage in activities that discredit Russia's domestic and foreign policy, criticize decisions made by the country's leadership, or attempt to change the country's laws.
According to the Russian government, organizations on the list of foreign agents received a total of 950 million rubles ($14.3 million) from foreign sources in 2015.
The agency tasked with keeping tabs on foreign-funded nonprofits is trying to access tax and bank records in order to wield greater control over the movement of funds in NGOs' bank accounts. In addition, the Justice Ministry says it wants access to information from the Federal Financial Monitoring Service and various legal entities in Russia to trace the sources of nonprofits' financing, hoping to prevent cases where Russian legal entities receive money from abroad and then transfer it to the accounts of a politically active nonprofit organization.
In 2015, Russia's registry of foreign agents grew to 81 organizations (three times more than the year before).