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Six months after the adoption of the law on NGOs – “foreign agents,” a number of structures that protect the rights of children have been put on the verge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the first NGO has voluntarily submitted an application to the RF Ministry of Justice to include it in the list of foreign agents.
According to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, the known non-governmental organisation Pravo Rebenka (Rights of the Child) is currently under the threat of closure, as it has simultaneously lost support of the Western foundations and government grants, although this organisation has not been involved in political activity, but only protected sick orphans. Experts have confirmed that the Western charity providers decided to leave Russia and the collapse of the children’s funds may turn out to be just the beginning.
If no money is found instead of foreign funds, the closure is also imminent to the daily Children Reception Office (advice on violations of children’s rights), as well as the charity program “Child’s Right to Family,” not to mention the friendly assistance to regional NGOs,” Chairman of Rights of the Child Boris Altshuler told the newspaper. It should be noted that the organisations protecting children should be excluded by default from the law on “foreign agents”- as they are not engaged in politics. However, it is the non-political foreign funds that have most sharply reacted to the new legislation by closing their charitable programs in Russia.
According to Altshuler, the reception of applications for “small grants” has already been stopped at the US and Dutch embassies: “They have decided in the West – you don’t want it – do whatever you want.” Altshuler’s Fund has also not received a 4-million rouble grant from the Russian authorities: “We simply have no sources to get the money from, no money to pay salaries.” It is noteworthy that Rights of the Child also helps orphans in orphanages. These orphans, by the way, have been recently impaired in their rights by the “anti-Magnitsky law” that nullifies their chance to emigrate to the United States. Altshuler stresses that the situation in a number of Russian orphanages is that children need to get out there as soon as possible - the children there, he said, are just being ruined. “They have brought children from an Astrakhan orphanage to Moscow for treatment - the children looked as if they have come from Auschwitz. I especially remember one girl: we realised that if we send her back, she has only one way to go - to the cemetery. We’ve made unbelievable efforts to leave her in Moscow,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Kommersant daily has learnt that the first NGO has voluntarily submitted an application to the RF Ministry of Justice to include it in the list of foreign agents. According to employees of the human rights organisation Shchit i Mech (Shield and Sword), thus they are going to “study the new law from the inside” and create the legal practice that would help to avoid closure for their colleagues, funded from abroad.
The newspaper recalls that according to the law, any NGO that receives funding from abroad and engages in political activities or “activities aimed at the formation of public opinion with the aim of changing the state policy,” must obtain the status of a foreign agent. Such an organisation is required to specify this status in any publications, and it will also be more closely audited by the Department of Justice. Most human rights defenders, including Transparency International and the leadership of the Memorial organisation have boycotted the new law, and it is unknown whether the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation will allow them to continue their work.
Head of Shield and Sword Alexei Glukhov explained that the organisation fully meets the requirements of the law on foreign agents, and its inclusion in the corresponding register of the Ministry of Justice will allow other human rights activists to understand how to proceed. “We are engaged in the fight against tortures, violations by the bodies of state authority. Under the law, receiving money from a Russian organisation, which is funded from abroad is also considered as a foreign source, and we get funds from the Agora organisation, which is supported by the international fund Internews,” the human rights activist said.
According to the head of the human rights organisation Agora Pavel Chikov, if Shield and Sword us after all included in the registry of foreign agents, the human rights defenders will finally be able to understand from within how the new law works. “We want to test the procedures and get the maximum number of arguments to fight the initiative of the authorities,” Chikov said.