On Thursday the office of one of Russia’s oldest non-governmental organizations – Memorial human rights group was cracked down by officers of the Justice Ministry, Moscow’s tax service and prosecutor’s office. They searched for financial documents proving foreign assistance. An NTV Channel camera team came together with prosecutors.
Unprecedented large-scale check-ups embraced 13 Russian regions and hundreds of non-governmental organizations, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily wrote. “There was a comprehensive off-plan inspection by prosecutors,” Memorial chief Alexander Cherkasov told the daily. “And for some reason an NTV camera team appeared – in January it had already made attempts to enter our office.”
A Memorial council member Anna Karetnikova wrote in her Twitter blog that Pyotr Dorogovoz, an NTV correspondent, who worked on the scandalous film Anatomy of Protest, was running with camera and constantly repeating: “Do you get financial assistance from abroad?” Dorogovoz was sent out by the police human rights activists had called, while representatives of the prosecutor’s office and taxmen remained inside.
Memorial spokeswoman Yulia Klimova told Kommersant that inspectors searched for financial documents, including those that may prove the existence of foreign financing.
Memorial was established back in 1989 as an organization investigating political repressions in the Soviet Union. Later on it turned into the human rights group, the business daily recalled. Memorial is one of the major non-profit organizations that provides legal assistance to victims of torture in the North Caucasus and in military action zones.
According to the daily, human rights activists plan to file a suit against NTV. In their report from Memorial’s office journalists claimed that the non-profit organization’s staff hide their incomes from prosecutors. Memorial assessed these statements as slander.
NTV spokeswoman Maria Bezborodova told the daily on Thursday that the TV Channel was preparing a report about raids on human rights organizations, but she did not comment on possible shooting of a film about non-governmental organizations. Really, NTV’s program Emergency Event aired a short story entitled Memorial Hides Incomes from Prosecutor’s Office. This very title angered Memorial’s staff. “Actually, this is a very serious accusation, therefore we are consulting with lawyers to file a suit,” Klimova said.
The head of the interregional human rights organization Agora, Pavel Chikov, was cited by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying that inspections that engulfed all regions without exception were carried out following instructions from Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika that are supposed to check compliance of non-governmental organizations with the law on extremist activity.
“The key moment is that in compliance with the law on prosecutor’s offices of Russia all check-ups are carried out on the grounds of availability of the information on concrete violations,” Chikov said. Earlier members of the Human Rights Council addressed the Prosecutor-General’s Office with a request to explain about what violations it had known before it launched inspections. A member of the Human Rights Council, Mara Polyakova, told the daily that lawyers analyze the reasons for the check-ups provided to make a conclusion to what extent they meet the law.