Are regions obliged to coordinate implementation of 'foreign agents' law with Moscow?

5 February 2013 

Source: (info
The Ministry of Justice has demanded that its regional offices coordinate implementation of the 'foreign agents' law with ministry officials Moscow, the newspaper Vedomosti reported on 5 February, citing Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora Human Rights Association, who in turn was quoting a source in the Ministry's Department for NGOs. It is also expected that Moscow officials will engage in possible lawsuits in connection with the new law.

According to, the instruction was issued after the Saratov administration of the Justice Ministry delivered a warning to the NGO No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Foundation (NAN) for violating the law on 'foreign agents'. Citing a letter from the director of the Justice Ministry’s Department for NGOs, Vladimir Titov, Vedomosti writes that this warning was not considered entirely justified by the Ministry.

The Saratov NGO was the first organisation to fall subject to the new law on 'foreign agents', which came into effect in November 2012. On 13 December it became known that NAN had been ordered - under threat of closure - to provide a report on any funds received from foreign sources in 2011, that is, before the new law came into effect. The Foundation complained to the department about the warning.

In mid-January Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov told State Duma deputies that the new law was against the spirit of the legislation on NGOs. According to Konovalov, the department would not be participating in compiling the register of foreign agents, as it is financial control agencies who should discover the sources of foreign financing, whilst the matter of political activities will be decided in court. On 28 January the Justice Ministry published a bill which proposes that a number of the rules governing 'foreign agents' should apply to all NGOs.

From 1 January the so-called 'anti-Magnitsky law' has been in force in Russia, which has also introduced constraints on the work of not-for-profit organisations. The law requires that NGOs in Russia that are involved in "political activities" and receive funding from the US or that pose a "threat to the interests of Russia" be shut down.