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Prigozhin-linked foundation calls for Mediazona to be designated as a ‘foreign agent’

The Foundation for National Values Protection, an organization that the U.S. authorities have linked to Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin, is calling for the independent outlet Mediazona to be designated as a “foreign agent.” 

The foundation has sent corresponding proposals to the Russian Attorney General’s Office, the state censorship agency (Roskomnadzor), and the State Duma Commission on the Investigation of Foreign Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs.

According to the foundation’s founder, Maxim Shugaley, the basis for the appeal was “a whole list of publications, after which there is no doubt that Mediazona’s journalists lie to their readers about what’s really happening in Russia.” He added that Mediazona has posted materials on its website from organizations that are registered as “foreign agents,” including Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK), the human rights group Agora, and Meduza. 

Shugaley also claims that Mediazona and its journalists received awards from the media support foundation Sreda, which is recognized as a “foreign agent,” as well as grants from abroad.

On Telegram, Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov wrote that it’s still unclear whether the appeals from the Foundation for National Values Protection will prompt the authorities to take action, adding that “we remember well that Meduza was declared a ‘foreign agent’ after a denunciation.”

“Practice in recent months shows that almost any independent publication — and individual people (and not even journalists necessarily) — can end up in the [foreign agent] registry under a far-fetched pretext,” Smirnov said.

Update. The State Duma Commission on the Investigation of Foreign Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs has received information from the “competent authorities” about Mediazona’s “participation in political activities and receipt of financing from abroad,” said the commission’s head Vasily Pisakrev. He also confirmed that the commission received an appeal from the Foundation for National Values Protection suggesting that Mediazona be added to Russia’s list of “foreign agents” media outlets. Mediazona publisher Pyotr Verzilov has assured that the outlet will continue operating even if it is labeled a “foreign agent.”

Dear “independent” online media, such as Mediazona, if you think that with the help of foreign infusions you can trample Russia’s reputation in the mud, misinterpret facts, impose unacceptable Western and European values on our youth, [and] incite our children to illegal actions…here’s my answer to you. Here, we figure out [for] ourselves how to live, how to raise our children, and which path to take…

Maxim Shugaley

The Russian Justice Ministry declared Meduza a “foreign agent” in April, along with the organization First Anti-Corruption Media. In May, this status was handed down to the business news outlet VTimes, which subsequently announced that it was shutting down because the “foreign agent” label had destroyed its business model and damaged its relationship with newsmakers.

Rotonda Media writes that Shugaley’s statement may be part of his election campaign — according to the news outlet, he may head the Rodina party’s list for the upcoming elections to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly. 

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