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Soldiers’ Mothers of St Pete organization to challenge status of foreign agent

December 23, 2014, 6:01 UTC+3 St PETERSBURG
“We don’t have any foreign financing at the moment and we changed over to operations upon a presidential grant as of September,” the organization’s chairperson, Ella Polyakova, told
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© ITAR-TASS/Sergey Karpov

St PETERSBURG, December 23. /TASS/. A district court in St Petersburg on Tuesday is expected to hear a petition by the Soldiers’ Mothers of St Petersburg nongovernmental organization against its placing on the list of foreign agents by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

Reports said at the end of August that the ministry had added the Soldiers’ Mothers to the list of foreign agents upon a request from the Prosecutor’s Office of St Petersburg.

Lawyer Vitaly Cherkassov, who works for the organization, said the Prosecutor’s Office had done a three-months-long inspection of the Soldiers’ Mothers activity earlier this year. Its findings indicated that the organization was a recipient of foreign financing and was engaged in political activity.

The organization made an official query to the Justice Ministry in September asking to drop it from the register of foreign agents.

“We don’t have any foreign financing at the moment and we changed over to operations upon a presidential grant as of September,” the organization’s chairperson, Ella Polyakova, told TASS earlier. “Also, we didn’t have foreign citizens among the founders.”

However, the ministry turned the query down.

The Soldiers’ Mothers of St Petersburg describes itself as a public association defending the legal rights of Russian citizens liable to conscription for the Armed Forces and assisting their qualification for alternative service. It also provides legal and other services to active-duty servicemen and members of their families.

The law on nongovernmental organizations that are foreign agents was adopted in the summer of 2012. It obliged the NGOs engaged in political activities and getting funds from abroad to obtain the official status of foreign agents and to receive appropriate registration.

The law also makes it mandatory for them to identify their status during publication of materials in the Internet and in the mass media. A failure to comply with its provisions entails a fine.

Registration of the status of foreign agents was practically voluntary until fairly recently but amendments were introduced in June 2014 to permit the Justice Ministry to place the organizations, which had not filed appropriate applications but were foreign agents de facto, in the register coercively.

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