The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum has issued a statement protesting the growing persecution of independent civil society organisations in Russia as a result of repressive legislation on “foreign agents.” The Forum cites the convictions meted out on two of its member organisations, the GOLOS Association and its regional partner, as well as the Kostroma Support Center for Civic Initiatives. The fourth NGO convicted as a “foreign agent” is the St Petersburg LGBT film festival, Side by Side. In all, the authorities have taken action against more than 40 NGOs, many of them members of the Forum.
In all cases brought against NGOs, the authorities have claimed that legitimate civic action and work supporting human rights, fighting corruption, protecting the environment, and civic control of the decision-making process amounts to “political activism.” The Forum fully supports the Russian NGOs in their principled position of refusing to accept the discriminatory label of a “foreign agent.” The campaign against independent NGOs may force dozens of the most active organisations crucial for Russia’s civil society to close down. Such a development will result in irrecoverable losses to the Russian civil society, the Forum warns.
The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum demands that the Russian government and law enforcement agencies stop the repression of independent civil society organisations immediately. The Forum points out that the repressive measures will, first and foremost, inflict damage on Russia itself. Moreover, the Forum calls on the civil societies and political leaders in European Union member states to support Russian NGOs in defending their rights and continuing their important work without fear of persecution. The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM), which is a founding member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, joins in this appeal.