Russia draws up first list of 'undesirable' NGOs to be banned

Russia's upper house of parliament has drafted a shortlist of 12 "undesirable" NGOs - including seven American organisations - calling for them to be banned from operating in the country for being "anti-Russian". The list has been submitted to Russia's state prosecution.

The Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of what became known in the Russian press as the "undesirable organisations" law in May. After it was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the law set the legal framework allowing the Russian government to effectively close the regional offices of any international or foreign non-governmental organisation perceived to "threaten the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian federation". It also means the leadership of such organisations can be fined and imprisoned and Russian banks may be banned from cooperating with it.

Liberal MP Dmitry Gudkov, who was one of only three parliamentarians to oppose the bill, subsequently voiced concern that this law could give the Russian state very broad jurisdiction to interfere in charities as well as institutes because technically the concept of "non-governmental organisations" does not exist in Russian law. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the law.

In the first major move since the law's passing the Federal Council of Russia, which is the country's upper house of parliament, has issued a statement to the state prosecution, asking them to review the compliance of 12 organisations under the so called "undesirable organisations" law.

The shortlist, referred to as "the patriotic stop-list" has not been published officially and a spokesman for the upper house only confirmed that out of the 12 organisations, the activities of seven are linked to the US, two are Polish and three are in some way related to Ukraine,

Citing a source from inside the council, however, RIA Novosti published what it purports to be a full list of the organisations recommended by parliamentarians to be branded undesirable.

The organisations named by the source are the US-based Soros Fund's Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the MacArthur Foundation, Freedom House and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, as well as the Polish-based Education for Democracy foundation and the East European Democratic Centre.

According to RIA, the three Ukrainian organisations on the list are the Ukrainian World Congress, the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights. Newsweek could not independently verify RIA's report that the 12 organisations listed are indeed the 12 on the Federal Council's list.

One of the organisations listed by RIA, the Polish Education for Democracy Foundation, said they were surprised to be on the list. "What we do is non-partisan and apolitical," president of the board Justyna Janiszewska told Newsweek. "In my opinion our presence on that list is strongly connected to our involvement in support of pro-democratic reforms in Ukraine in recent 2 years. We haven't been notified by the Russian authorities about the plan to ban us.