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The Russian Justice Ministry suspended, for the first time, the activity of the Golos non-governmental organization within the framework of the NGO law, for its refusal to be registered as a "foreign agent." The decision was made on June 25, but the ministry only announced it on Wednesday evening, the Kommesant writes. The ministry's statement noted that suspension followed Golos's refusal to be registered as a foreign agent. Under the law on non-governmental organizations, the association is banned from holding mass or public events and using bank deposits. The NGO can only engage in economic activities, pay wages to its personnel, reimburse damages, and pay taxes and fines. The Justice Ministry demanded that Golos register as "a foreign agent" back in April 2013, the newspaper reminds. It said the Andrei Sakharov Prize worth 50,000 euros awarded to the organization by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for "propagation of democratic values" in September 2012 was "foreign funding" /the Golos administration said it had not received this money/. According to the Ministry, the drawing and lobbying of a new Election Code by Golos since 2008 was political activity. The association was fined 300,000 roubles while its director, Lilia Shibanova, was fined 100,000 roubles.
Golos representatives said they were not going to register as a foreign agent. Executive director Grigory Melkonyants told the Kommersant that the organization had long decided on liquidation: "yesterday, we completed the legal formalities and launched the procedure of dissolution that may last up to three months. In the next few months, the Golos team will operate under the Golos association of public unions which we are setting up in the nearest future. The ad hoc association will function until the registration of a new body."
Deputy director of the center for political technologies Alexei Makarkin, said the authorities' close attention to Golos is a sort of revenge for its activity in the 2011 parliamentary election and the 2012 presidential election.
"It is important for the authorities that the Golos brand be banned, and that it is done by the authorities, not through self-liquidation of the organization," the political scientist said.
Golos director Lilia Shibanova said the newspaper would have to be re-registered because of the Justice Ministry's decision, and that 700,000 roubles of donations from Russian citizens would be frozen on arrested Golos accounts. As for other actions by the Justice Ministry, they did not affect the operation of Golos: in order not to register as a "foreign agent," the association had planned to liquidate the old legal entity and register a new one.
Golos will be monitoring the September elections as a non-registered public association, together with registered partners, according to Shibanova. Also, Golos will have new symbols.