Lev Ponomarev announces dissolution of his human rights group due to Russia’s strengthened ‘foreign agents’ laws
Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, who was himself labeled a “foreign agent” in December 2020, has announced the dissolution of his movement “Za Prava Cheloveka” (For Human Rights) due to the recent tightening of Russia’s foreign agent legislation.
Ponomarev told the independent television network Dozhd that this decision came after Russia’s foreign agent laws were changed to apply to unregistered organizations, such as For Human Rights.
“Around a thousand experts across the country work within my organization ‘For Human Rights.’ This is a network organization, they don’t report to me. And I don’t think that they will be able to comply [with the new rules]. Because they’re ordinary people, they will simply be fined all over the country. So I made a very difficult decision today [to dissolve the organization].”
Ponomarev emphasized that in Russia, the human rights movement is being destroyed “deliberately, step by step.”
In December 2020, the Russian State Duma adopted legislation allowing for individuals, as well as civil society groups not registered as legal entities, to be labeled foreign agents if they are involved in “political activities” and receive funding from abroad.
The organization For Human Rights operated in Russia for more than 20 years before it was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2019. Lev Ponomarev then resurrected his human rights group under the same name, and it continued to work without being registered as a legal entity.
Harsher penalties for violations of foreign agent laws came into force in Russia on March 1, 2021.