Russia

Last updated: 12 November 2019

Update

In the last six months, there have been three main developments in the civil society legal environment in Russia. They include:

Introduction

Since 2012, a number of restrictive laws have been enacted in Russia. For example, on July 20, 2012, Russia enacted the Federal Law Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Regarding the Regulation of Activities of Non-commercial Organizations Performing the Function of Foreign Agents, which came into effect on November 21, 2012. The law requires all non-commercial organizations (NCOs) to register in the registry of NCOs, which is maintained by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), prior to receipt of funding from any foreign sources if they intend to conduct political activities. Such NCOs are called “NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent.” As of April 30, 2019, the Registry of NCOs Performing Functions of Foreign Agents included 183 entries/records and 182 NCOs (as one NCO was included in the FA Registry repeatedly), with 28 of them registered voluntarily (mostly because of considerable administrative penalties). 109 NCOs were exempted from the Registry (66 due to their liquidation and 44 due to ceasing to perform the functions of a foreign agent).

The Federal Law of March 8, 2015 specified the grounds and procedure for exclusion from the register of NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent. On January 23, 2017, the Foreign Agents Registry was changed. It now contains only entries on “active” NCOs-FAs column; the “Exemption from the Register” column is now empty. It seems that the MoJ yielded to the urging of NCOs which were removed from the FA Registry (after ceasing the functions of a foreign agent) to remove all information about these organizations.

On December 21, 2012, the Duma adopted amendments to the Dima Yakovlev law (the Federal Law 272-FZ on Measures of Influence of Persons Relating to Violation of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation). The new law also contains a number of provisions further restricting activities of NCOs, including the following:

  • Activities of NCOs participating in political activities or implementing other activities constituting a threat to the interests of Russia and receiving funds from US citizens or organizations shall be suspended and their assets seized (the Ministry of Justice may issue a decision to restart activities of an NCO whose activity was previously suspended after the NCO stops receiving funding from US citizens or organizations).
  • Citizens with US-Russian dual citizenship are prohibited from membership or participation in the management of Russian NCOs or registered offices of foreign NCOs that participate in political activities in Russia.
  • In case of the seizure of assets of an NCO, the NCO also loses its rights to found mass media outlets and is prohibited from conducting mass and public events and from using bank accounts, with a few exceptions outlined in the Federal Law on NCOs.

On May 23, 2014, President Putin signed Federal Law No. 129-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation, which affects foreign and international NCOs and their partners in Russia (“the Law on Undesirable Organizations”). The Law on Undesirable Organizations introduced changes to a number of Russian laws, including the Dima Yakovlev Law, the Code of Administrative Offenses, Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and the Law On the Procedure of Exit from the Russian Federation and Entry into the Russian Federation.

According to the Law on Undesirable Organizations, a foreign or international NCO can be declared “undesirable” by the Prosecutor General or the Prosecutor General’s deputies if they decide that the NCO is a threat to national security. Activities of “undesirable” organizations in Russia are prohibited, and all persons participating in such activities are subject to administrative and criminal penalties. Since its adoption, the Law on Undesirable Organizations has been amended on a number of occasions by:

  • expanding the list of prohibited activities for undesirable international and foreign NCOs, by adding a fifth activity, which is “a ban on the creation in the territory of the Russian Federation of legal entities or participation in them” (by Federal Law of March 28, 2017 No. 35-FZ); and
  • expanding the list of grounds for recognizing the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization as “undesirable” in the territory of the Russian Federation with the following: if it “facilitates or hinders the nomination of candidates, lists of candidates, the election of registered candidates, the initiative of holding a referendum and holding a referendum, the achievement of a certain result in elections, referendum, as well as in other forms (except for participation in election campaigns, referendum campaigns as foreign (international) observers)” (by Federal Law No. 555-FZ of December 27, 2018).

As of August 30, 2019, the Registry of “Undesirable Organizations” included 18 organizations: National Endowment for Democracy (July 29, 2015); OSI Assistance Foundation and Open Society Foundation (December 1, 2015); U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law (December 7, 2015); National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (May 17, 2016); Media Development Investment Fund Inc. (August 22, 2016), International Republican Institute (August 22, 2016), Open Russia (April 27, 2017), Institute of Modern Russia (April 27, 2017), Open Russia Civic Movement (April 27, 2017), the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (July 3, 2017); European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) (March 13, 2018); International elections study center (IESC) (March 13, 2018); the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) (March 21, 2018); Pacific Environment (PERC) (August 28, 2018); Free Russia Foundation (June 28, 2019); Ukrainian World Congress (July 17, 2019); and the Atlantic Council (July 29, 2019).

Two other federal laws came into force on January 1, 2017: Federal Law No. 287-FZ on Amending Federal Law on NCOs in Terms of Establishing the Status of NCO–Provider of Public Benefit Services (PBS); and Federal Law No. 449-FZ on Amendments to Article 31-1 of the Federal Law on NCOs (in Terms of Specification of Measures of Support of Socially Oriented NCOs–PBS by the Public Authorities and Local Self-Government). Both of these laws have provisions that could benefit civil society if implemented properly. However, it remains to be seen how these laws will be implemented.

The long-discussed Federal Law of March 7, 2017 No. 27-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation entered into force on March 17, 2017. The adoption of this law is undoubtedly positive for all legal entities. The essence of the law’s purpose is to create a legal regulation of the powers of the Prosecutor General in conducting inspections of NCOs and other organizations. Key new aspects of this law include the following: the term of the prosecutor’s inspection is 30 calendar days; time limits for the submission of information at the request of the prosecutor is five working days and in case of inspection it is two working days; the prosecutor presents the results of the inspection to the inspected organization; and there are also restrictions on the information that may be requested from the inspected entity (there is ban on requesting information previously published on the Internet or in the media that is not relevant to the subject of inspection).

On November 25, 2017, Federal Law No. 327-FZ on Amendments to Articles 10.4 and 15.3 of the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information and Article 6 of the Law on Mass Media came into force. The law introduces recognition of foreign media as “foreign agents” and expands the list of reasons for extrajudicial restrictions on access to information resources on the internet. In addition to the list of existing grounds for blocking websites, such as for appealing for mass riots, extremist activities, and participation in mass (public) events held in violation of the established order, it allows for the blocking of websites with materials published or disseminated by “undesirable” foreign organizations as well as all data that allows someone to access these materials. As of April 30, 2019, the Ministry of Justice’s register of media outlets deemed “foreign agents” includes nine entries, all of them included on December 5, 2017, namely: “Voice of America”; “Idel.Реалии”; “Кавказ.Реалии”; “Крым.Реалии”; TV Channel “Настоящее Время”; the Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Liberty (Azatliq Radiosi); Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE / RL); “Сибирь.Реалии”; “Фактограф”.

On October 22, 2018, Federal Law No. 362-FZ of October 11, 2018 on Amending Article 5 of the Federal law on Anti-Corruption Expert Review of Normative Legal Acts and Drafts of Normative Legal entered into force. The law limits the number of categories of individuals and legal entities which can obtain official status as an independent expert accredited by the MoJ. In particular, the law establishes a ban on conducting independent anti-corruption expert review of normative legal acts and drafts of normative legal acts by international and foreign organizations, as well as NCOs performing the functions of a foreign agent.

Three federal laws that do not specifically affect NCOs’ activities but rather restrict freedom of assembly were adopted between October and December 2018.

  • Federal Law No. 367-FZ of October 11, 2018, on Amendments to Articles 5 and 10 of the Federal Law on Meetings, Rallies, Processions and Pickets entered into force on October 22, 2018. According to the new law, the organizer of a public event is obligated to inform citizens and provide a written notification to the government about the cancellation of a public event no later than one day prior to its scheduled date. This requirement may be difficult to fulfill, as there are many instances when organizers of public events are forced to cancel an event due to last minute disruptions not dependent on the organizers, such as denial of premise rental an hour before the meeting.
  • Federal Law No. 377-FZ of October 30, 2018, on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses entered into force on November 11, 2018. The Code of Administrative Offenses is supplemented by Article 20.23, which provides for administrative liability for the organizer of a public event not fulfilling its obligations to inform citizens and government bodies about a decision to cancel the public event, as well as for filing a notification for holding a public event without indicating its purpose.
  • Federal Law No. 557-FZ of December 27, 2018 on Amending Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation entered into force on January 8, 2019. The law establishes administrative liability for the involvement of minors in unauthorized public events.

In addition, on May 1, 2019, the Federal law No. 90-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in terms of ensuring the safe and sustainable functioning of the Internet in the territory of the Russian Federation) was signed by the President of the Russian Federation. In accordance with the text of the law, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) provides operators and owners of traffic exchange points with free of charge technical means of countering threats to the stability, security and integrity of the functioning of the internet information and telecommunications network and the public communication network in the territory of the Russian Federation. In addition, in the case of detection of such threats (the list of which will be subsequently determined by the Government of the Russian Federation), the Federal Service assumes the centralized management of the public communication network and (or) issues the instructions to ensure functioning of the internet network for operators of communication which are obligatory for execution. However, in Russia, a national system of domain names will be created, and an operator established.

Organizational Forms

(1) Corporate entities, which are those where founders (participants, members) have the right to participate in their management (that is, they gain the right of membership), including consumer cooperatives, public organizations, associations (unions), political parties, and trade unions.

(2) Unitary entities are those where founders may not become participants (they do not acquire the right of membership), including public charitable funds, private institutions, autonomous non-commercial organizations, and religious organizations.

Registration BodyMinistry of Justice
Approximate Number215,174 as of October 31, 2019 (according to the Ministry of Justice)
Barriers to Entry

Certain persons, including foreign persons and stateless persons, may not become founders, members, or participants.

Registration procedures are overly bureaucratic, with excessive documentation requirements. Expanded justifications for unscheduled state audits. Compulsory inclusion into the Registry of NCOs Foreign Agents by the Ministry of Justice.

Barriers to Activities

Burdensome reporting requirements. Supervisory power allowing for interference with internal affairs of public associations and NCOs.

Expanded justifications for unscheduled state audits.

Compulsory inclusion into the Registry of NCO Performing Functions of Foreign Agents by the Ministry of Justice.

Activities of NCOs participating in political activities or implementing other activities constituting threat to the interests of Russia and receiving funds from US citizens or organizations shall be suspended and their assets seized.

Prohibition of all transactions involving finances or other assets to which an “undesirable organization” is party.

Prohibition on distributing information materials issued by an undesirable organization, and/or disseminated thereby, including through the media and/or with the use of the Internet and telecommunication network, as well as to produce or possess them for purposes of distribution.

Prohibition for an undesirable organization to implement programs (projects) in the territory of the Russian Federation, and for individuals and entities to engage in such activities on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Prohibition for accrediting international and foreign organizations as well as NCOs performing the functions of a foreign agent (FA) as independent experts who can prepare a special anti-corruption expert review of draft laws and other legal acts.

Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy

Potential restrictions against NCO advocacy activity may arise through application of criminal or administrative penalties codes.

Advocacy activities often are considered to be equal to political activities, which may lead to their inclusion on the foreign agents registry.

Barriers to International Contact

Criminal responsibility for “state treason” has been introduced. The term is defined as “a deed, carried out by a citizen of the Russian Federation, damaging to the security of the Russian Federation, including espionage or passing to a foreign state, international or foreign organization or their representatives information that contains a state secret that has been entrusted and became known to the person through service, work or studies or other cases determined by Russian legislation, or providing financial material, technical, consultative or other assistance directed against security of the Russian Federation.”

Administrative and criminal penalties for participation in activities of undesirable organizations on the territory of the Russian Federation

Barriers to Resources

Foreign or international organizations wishing to make tax-exempt grants to Russian citizens or NCOs must be on a list of organizations approved by the Russian Government; access to this list is severely limited.

NCOs that carry out political activities and receive foreign funding are labeled “NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent.”

Individuals and entities are prohibited from receiving assets from “undesirable” organizations.

Barriers to Assembly

Excessive force used against peaceful protesters.

Strict regulation of public mass events.

Administrative liability when minors are involved in unauthorized public events.

Administrative liability for organizers of a public event who failed to inform citizens and government bodies about a decision to cancel the public event as well as for filing a notification for holding a public event without indicating its purpose.

Population

146,780,720 (January 31, 2019)

CapitalMoscow
Type of GovernmentFederation
Life Expectancy at Birth

67.51 years (male); 77.64 years (female) in 2018

Literacy Rate

99.70%

Religious Groups

According to an August 2012 survey, Russian Orthodox represent 52%, Muslim 6.5%, 4.1% are unaffiliated Christians, 1.5% adhere to other Orthodox Churches, 1.2% are Pagans, 0.5% are Buddhists, 0.2% are Orthodox Old Believers, 0.2% are Protestants, 25% are “spiritual but not religious” people, 13% are atheist and non-religious people and 5.5% of the total population have deemed themselves “undecided”.

Ethnic GroupsRussian 80.90%, Tatar 3.87%, Ukrainian 1.41%, Bashkir 1.15%, Chuvash 1.05%, other or unspecified 12.1% (2010 census)
GDP per capita

$11,288 (2018) (World Bank)

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index49 (2018)1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index

22 (2018)

100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index19 (2018)100 – 0
Transparency International138 (2018)

1 – 180

Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 7 (2019)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
100 – 0
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index73 (2019)178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes1973
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes1991
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes1973
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize ConventionYes1956
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1969
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1981 (as Soviet Union)
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenYes2004
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)No —
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Yes 2012
Regional Treaties
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental FreedomsYes1998
Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCEYes1990

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
** Country is a signatory to the agreement, but has not formally ratified it

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of the Russian Federation (as amended December 30, 2008;February 5, 2014; July 21, 2014) includes the following relevant provisions:

Article 19
1. All people shall be equal before the law and courts.
2. The State shall guarantee the equality of rights and freedoms of man and  citizen, regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property and official  status, place of residence, religion, convictions, membership of public  associations, and also of other circumstances. All forms of limitations of human  rights on social, racial, national, linguistic or religious grounds shall be banned.
3. Men and women shall enjoy equal rights and freedoms and have equal  possibilities to exercise them.

Article 28: Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with others any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them.

Article 29
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. Propaganda or agitation instigating social, racial, national or religious hatred  and strife shall not be allowed. The propaganda of social, racial, national,  religious or linguistic supremacy shall be banned.
3. No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or to reject them.
4. Everyone shall have the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and  distribute information by any legal means. The list of data comprising state  secrets shall be determined by a federal law.
5. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be  banned.

Article 30
1. Everyone shall have the right to association, including the right to create trade  unions for the protection of his or her interests. The freedom of activity of public  association shall be guaranteed.
2. No one may be compelled to join any association and remain in it.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

  • Constitution of the Russian Federation (December 12, 1993; (as amended December 30, 2008; February 5, 2014; July 21, 2014).
  • Civil Code of the Russian Federation, Part I, Federal Law No. 51-FZ, November 30, 1994 as amended.
  • Civil Code of the Russian Federation, Part II, Federal Law No. 14-FZ, January 26, 1996, as amended.
  • Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, July 13, 1996 N 63-FZ as amended
  • Code of Administrative Penalties, December 30, 2001 N 195-FZ, as amended
  • Tax Code of the Russian Federation, Part II, Federal Law No. 118-FZ, August 5, 2000, as amended.[Excerpts]
  • Federal Law No. 7-FZ, “On Non-Commercial Organizations,” January 12, 1996, as amended (NCO Law).
  • Federal Law No. 135-FZ, “On Charitable Activities and Charitable Organizations,” August 11, 1995, as amended (Charities Law).
  • Federal Law No. 82-FZ, “On Public Associations,” May 19, 1995, as amended (Law on Public Associations).
  • Federal Law No. 95-FZ, “On Gratuitous Assistance,” May 4, 1999, as amended (Law on Gratuitous Assistance).
  • Federal Law No. 54-FZ “On Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing,” July 19, 2004, as amended.
  • Federal Law No. 275-FZ, “On the Procedure of Establishment and Use of Endowments of Non-commercial Organizations,” December 30, 2006.
  • Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation # 212, “On measures aimed at implementing certain provisions of the federal laws regulating activities of non-commercial organizations,” April 15, 2006.
  • Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation# 485, June 28, 2008, Regarding the list of international organizations whose grants (free aid) obtained by Russian organizations shall be tax exempt and shall be accounted for as taxable income of taxpayers – recipients of such grants
  • Decree of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation #222, “On the Procedure of State Control of NCO activity (including Spending of Resources),” June 22, 2006.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of Russia dd. November 30, 2012 № 223 “On procedure of maintaining Registry of Non-commercial Organizations, Carrying Functions of Foreign Agent
  • Federal law No. 139-FZ “On Amendments to Federal Law On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation”, July 28, 2012.
  • Federal Law No. 121-FZ “On Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Regarding the Regulation of Activities of Non-commercial Organizations, Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents,” July 20, 2012
  • Federal Law No.149-FZ “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection,” as amended on July 30, 2012.
  • Federal Law No. 272-FZ “On Measures of Influence of Persons, Relating to Violation of Human Rights, Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation,” December 28, 2012
  • Federal Law No. 212-FZ of July 21, 2014, on the Basics of Public Control in the Russian Federation.
  • Federal Law No. 327-FZ of November 4, 2014 on Patronage of Arts.
  • Federal Law No. 67-FZ of March 30, 2015, Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in Terms of Ensuring the Reliability of Information to be Submitted for State Registration of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs.
  • Federal Law No.304-FZ of March 30, 2015 on Amendments to Articles 4.5 and 23.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation.
  • Federal Law No. 76-FZ of March 30, 2016, Amending Federal Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations and Other Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation.
  • Federal law No. 287-FZ of July 3, 2016, on Amending Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations in terms of Establishing the Status of Non-Commercial Organization – Provider of Public Benefit Services.
  • Federal Law No. 375-FZ of July 6, 2016 on Making Changes into the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and into the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation in Part Establishing Additional Measures On Counteracting Terrorism and Ensuring Public Safety introduced changes to 1) the Criminal Code, 2) the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation and 3) the Federal Law dated July 27, 2006 #153-ФЗ On Introducing Changes into Separate Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in Relating to Adoption of the Federal Law On Ratification of Convention of the Council of Europe On Prevention of Terrorism and On Federal Law On Counteracting Terrorism. (This is known as part of the “Yarovaya Package”).
  • Federal Law No. 374-FZ dated July 6, 2016 On Making Changes into the Federal Law on Counteracting Terrorism and Separate Legal Acts of the Russian Federation in Part Establishing Additional Measures On Counteracting Terrorism and Ensuring Public Safety introduced changes into 18 laws, including: 1) Federal Law On Counteracting Terrorism; 2) Federal Law On Federal Security Service; 3) Federal Law On Executive Investigative Activity; 4) Federal Law On External Intelligence; 5) Federal Law on Procedure of Exiting the Russian Federation and Entering into the Russian Federation; 6) Federal Law On Weapons; 7) Air Code of the Russian Federation; 8) Federal Law On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations; 8) Federal Law On Post Communication; 10) Federal Law On Counteracting Legalization (Laundering) of Income, Received by Illegal Means, and of Financing of Terrorism; 11) Code of the Russian Federation On Administrative Offenses; 12) Federal Law On Transport-Expedition Activity; 13) Federal Law On Communication; 14) Housing Code of the Russian Federation; 15) Federal Law on Information, Informational Technologies, and On Protection of Information; 16) Federal Law On Transport Safety; 17) Federal Law On the Territorial Jurisdiction of District (Naval) Military Courts ; and 18) Federal Law On the Security of the Fuel and Energy Complex. (This is known as part of the “Yarovaya Package”).
  • Federal Law No. 179-FZ of June 2, 2016 on Amendments to Article 8 of the Federal Law on Public Associations and Article 2 of the Federal Law on Noncommercial Organizations (new definition of “political activity”, which is relevant because “conducting political activity” is one of the criteria for an NCO to be qualified as an organization carrying out the functions of a foreign agent under Russia’s Law on NCOs).
  • Federal Law No. 487-FZ of December 12, 2016 on Amendments to Articles 4 and 8 of Federal law on Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation (returning the order of formation of the Civic Chamber that existed before 2014).
  • Federal Law No. 287-FZ of July 3, 2016 on Amending Federal Law on NCOs in Terms of Establishing the Status of NCO–Provider of Public Benefit Services (PBS) (went into force on January 1, 2017).
  • Federal Law No. 449-FZ of December 19, 2016 on Amendments to Article 31-1 of the Federal Law on NCOs (in Terms of Specification of Measures of Support of Socially Oriented NCOs–PBS by the Public Authorities and Local Self-Government) (went into force on January 1, 2017).
  • Federal Law of March 7, 2017 No. 27-FZ, on Amendments to the Federal Law on the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation (entered into force on March 17, 2017).
  • Federal Law of April 3, 2017 No. 64-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Improving the State Policy in Combating Corruption (entered into force on April 15, 2017).
  • Federal Law of March 28, 2017 No. 35-FZ on Amendments to Part 3 of Article 3.1 of the Federal law No. 272-FZ of December 2, 2012, on Measures of Influence on Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Person, Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation (entered into force on April 8, 2017).
  • Federal law No. 64-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Improving the State Policy in Combating Corruption (entered into force on April 15, 2017).
  • Federal law No. 107-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Related to Improvement of Legislation on Public Events (entered into force on June 18, 2017).
  • Federal Law No. 320-FZ of November 14, 2017 on Amendments to Article 31-4 of the Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations.This law refers to assessment of the quality of public utility services by regional authorities and is aimed at simplifying the process for obtaining conclusions by government bodies, which are necessary for inclusion in the registry of NCO-providers of public benefit services.
  • Federal Law No. 327-FZ of November 25, 2017 on Amendments to Articles10.4 and 15.3 of the Federal law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information and Article 6 of the Law of the Russian Federation on Mass Media.The law is aimed, first of all, at expanding the list of reasons for extrajudicial restriction of access to information resources on the internet. Secondly, the law introduces recognition of foreign media as “foreign agents.”
  • The Federal Law No. 404-FZ of December 20, 2017 on Amendments to Article 8 of the Federal Law on Public Associations refers to expanding competence of the supreme governing body of a public association, other than the general meeting of members. The new powers include (which previously belonged to the general meeting of members): approving the annual report and accounting (financial) statements of the public association; making decisions on the establishment of other legal entities, on the participation of the public association in other legal entities, on establishing branches and on opening representative offices; and approving an audit organization or an individual auditor. This will allow large public associations to not convene a general meeting of members to approve the above issues, but at the same time it can negatively affect the members’ rights, if members do not participate in certain decision making directly.
  • The Federal Law No.15-FZ of February 5, 2018 on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts on Volunteering introduces several regulatory changes: the law (1) equates the terms “dobrovolets” and “volonter” in existing legislation; (b) introduces new definitions of “voluntary (volunteer) organization” and “the organizer of voluntary (volunteer) activities”; (c) defines the powers of government bodies in the sphere of volunteerism; and (d) provides support to volunteers’ activities.
  • The Federal Law No.98-FZ of April 23, 2018 on Amendments to Part Two of the Tax Code establishes procedures for providing a tax exemption for volunteers and “dobrovolets” from income tax when they work within service provider agreements; receive compensation in the form of reimbursement of their expenses and income in kind for uniforms and clothing, hiring premises, and travel expenses; and for the payment of medical insurance contributions for volunteers working in places with health risks. At the same time, property or funds received by NCOs as grants of the President of the Russian Federation will also not be taken into account when determining the tax base for corporate income tax.
  • The Federal Law No. 260-FZ of July 29, 2018 on Amendments to Articles 132 and 32 of the Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations in terms of improving the legal regulation of the activities of structural units of foreign non-commercial non-governmental organizations.
  • The Federal Law No. 230-FZ of July 29, 2018 on Amendments to the Tax Code of the Russian Federation in terms of registering with the tax authorities of the structural units of international organizations and foreign non-commercial non-governmental organizations, representations of foreign religious organizations.
  • The Federal Law No. 303-FZ of August 3, 2018 on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation on Taxes and Fees provides for the extension of a lower rate (20% instead of commonly applicable 30%) for insurance (a mandatory payment due to the governmental bodies calculated based on salaries paid by an organization to its employees) for NCOs until either 2024.
  • Federal Law No. 362-FZ of October 11, 2018, on Amending Article 5 of the Federal law on Anti-Corruption Expertise of Normative Legal Acts and Drafts of Normative Legal Acts. The law limits the number of categories of individuals and legal entities able to obtain official status as an independent expert accredited by the MoJ. In particular, the law establishes a ban on accrediting international and foreign organizations, as well as NCOs performing the functions of a foreign agent (FA), as independent experts. According to the Russian law, all drafts of legal acts require special anti-corruption expert review conducted by independent experts, before they are adopted. The government and parliament are required to consider results of such expert reviews before adopting legislation. The ban on accreditation for international and foreign organizations, as well as NCOs recognized as FAs, reduces the number of points of view and, accordingly, affects the overall objectivity of the anti-corruption expert review.
  • Federal Law No. 367-FZ of October 11, 2018, on Amendments to Articles 5 and 10 of the Federal Law on Meetings, Rallies, Processions and Pickets entered into force on October 22, 2018. According to the new law, the organizer of a public event is obligated to inform citizens and provide a written notification to the government about the cancellation of a public event no later than one day prior to its scheduled date. This requirement may be difficult to fulfill, as there are many instances when organizers of public events are forced to cancel the event due to last minute disruptions not dependent on the organizers, such as denial of premise rental an hour before the meeting.
  • Federal Law No. 377-FZ of October 30, 2018, on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses entered into force on November 11, 2018. The Code of Administrative Offenses is supplemented by Article 20.23, which provides for administrative liability for the organizer of a public event not fulfilling its obligations to inform citizens and government bodies about a decision to cancel the public event, as well as for filing a notification for holding a public event without indicating its purpose.
  • Federal Law No. 426-FZ of November 27, 2018, on Amendments to Articles 219 and 286.1 of Part Two of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation entered into force on January 1, 2019. The new law provides tax incentives for individuals and legal entities to support state and municipal (governmental) institutions carrying out cultural activities. According to the previous law, individuals could receive a refund of paid income tax, in the amount of donations valued at up to 13% from the total amount of 25% of taxable income, if the donations’ recipients are government institutions carrying out cultural activities or NCOs (funds/foundations), if donations were made to form endowments designated to support the above mentioned government institutions. The new law grants authority to the Russian regions to establish categories of government institutions carrying out cultural activities and NCOs (funds/foundations) if donations were made to form endowments designated to support the above mentioned government institutions. For such donations, individuals may receive a higher refund of paid income tax, in the amount of donations valued at up to 13% from the total amount of 30% of taxable income.
    The new law also grants Russian regions with authority to provide legal entities the right to reduce their income tax by deducting the amount of a donation from the legal entity’s taxable income, if donations to NCOs are made with the purpose of forming an endowment to support state institutions carrying out cultural activities. Such NCO-recipients shall be identified by authorities of Russian regions.
    Unfortunately, donors supporting non-state cultural institutions or other NCOs will not benefit from this law.
  • Federal Law No. 31-FZ of March 18, 2019, on Amendments to Article 15-3 of the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection. The law aims to curb the dissemination, under the guise of reliable messages, of unreliable, socially significant information that creates a threat to harm to life and (or) the health of citizens, property, the threat of mass disturbance of public order and (or) public security, or the threat of interference with the functioning or termination of the functioning of life support objects, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy facilities, industry and communications. For such information, the existing procedure for restricting access to information disseminated in violation of the law will be applied. Courts will issue such decisions on the basis of protocols prepared by the police.The law also provides that in cases when the specified unreliable, socially significant information is disseminated by the online publications, the editors of such online publications must delete the information upon receipt of an order from the authorized federal executive body (Roskomnadzor). Restricting access to the entire publication is allowed in cases if the editors fail to delete unreliable, socially significant information.
  • Federal Law No. 27-FZ of March 18, 2019, on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offensesamended the CAO, establishing administrative responsibility for disseminating in the media or in information and telecommunication networks deliberately unreliable, socially important information under the guise of reliable messages that creates the threat of harm to life and (or) the health of citizens, property, the threat of mass public disorder and (or) public safety or the threat of interfering with the functioning or interruption of the operation of life-support objects, transport or social infrastructure, credit institutions, energy facilities, industry or communications, as well as for the dissemination of information leading to the onset of the above-mentioned consequences (new parts 9-11 of Article 13.15 of the CAO). At the same time, within 24 hours of initiating administrative cases under the newly introduced norms, the police should report to the prosecution authorities. The function of the prosecution authorities in this case is not entirely clear. As a sanction for these administrative offenses, the fine for citizens is 30,000-100,000 rubles (approximately $460-$1,540) with or without confiscation of the subject of an administrative offense; for officials – 60,000-200,000 rubles (approximately $920-$3,080); and for legal entities – 200,000-500,000 rubles (approximately $3,000-$7,700) with or without confiscation of the subject of an administrative offense. Print media circulation will likely also be regarded as the “subject of an administrative offense.” The vagueness of the wording creates the risks of arbitrary application of administrative norms in practice.
  • Federal Law No. 30-FZ of March 18, 2019, on Amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Information ProtectionThe law establishes a procedure for restricting access to information, expressed in an indecent form, which offends human dignity and public morality, or expresses obvious disrespect for society, the state, official state symbols of the Russian Federation, its Constitution, or authorities exercising state power in the Russian Federation. If such information is found, the Prosecutor General or his deputies submit a request to Roskomnadzor to take measures to remove this information and restrict access to information resources that disseminate the information if it is not deleted.
  • Federal Law No. 28-FZ of March 18, 2019, on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses establishes administrative responsibility for the distribution in information and telecommunication networks, including on the internet, of information which offends human dignity and public morality, or expresses obvious disrespect for society, the state, official state symbols of the Russian Federation, its Constitution, or authorities exercising state power in the Russian Federation, if these actions do not constitute a criminal offense. The penalty is a fine in the amount of 30,000-100,000 rubles (approximately $460-$1,540). The vagueness of the wording creates the arbitrary application of administrative norms in practice.
  • Federal Law No. 34-FZ of March 18, 2019 No. 34-FZ on Amendments to Parts One, Two, and Article 1124 of Parts Three of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation came into force on October 1, 2019. The goal of this law is to establish several basic provisions in civil law, which would allow the legislature to regulate digital financial assets (commonly referred to as “tokens” and “cryptocurrency”). It provides conditions for concluding and executing digital transactions. In fact, these new assets are created and employed by users of information and telecommunication networks, including Russian citizens or legal entities, but were not recognized by Russian legislation before. The draft law was submitted to the State Duma one year ago and underwent many changes. Although the law is not directly related to NCOs, it is important for all legal entities, as it provides for the possibility of conducting transactions using digital financial assets, which is unusual for NCOs, since at the moment many people lack electronic means of identification (electronic signature).
  • Federal Law No. 112-FZ of April 23, 2014 on Amendments to the Federal Law on Counteraction to Legalization (Laundering) of Incomes Obtained in a Criminal Way, and Terrorism Financing and Article 13 of the Federal Law on Audit Activities established a new obligation for auditors to notify Rosfinmonitoring of any suspicions that persons audited by them violate legislation on counteracting legalization (laundering) of proceeds. However, this law was not actually applied until the publication of Methodological Recommendations posted online by Rosfinmonitoring on November 23, 2018 (Information Letter No. 56 of 11/23/2018 on Methodological Recommendations for the Consideration by Audit Organizations and Individual Auditors of Risks of the Legalization (Laundering) of Proceeds from Crime and the Financing of Terrorism in the Process of Rendering Audit Services). These methodical recommendations “are based on legislation in the field of combating the laundering of proceeds from crime and the financing of terrorism at the time of their publication. In case of changes in the requirements of the legislation, the methodological recommendations are applied in the part that does not contradict the newly adopted regulatory legal acts.” In defining risks, these recommendations include, in particular, clients’ risks of money laundering and financing terrorism within: “9.2.1) charity, activities of public and religious organizations (associations), foreign non-commercial non-governmental organizations and their representative offices and branches operating in the territory of the Russian Federation, or other type of unregulated non-commercial activity.” It is still not yet clear even to auditors how the new requirements of the legislation and the recommendations will be implemented in practice.
  • Federal Law of May 1, 2019 No. 90-FZ on Amendments to the Federal law on Communications and the Federal law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection comes into force on November 1, 2019. In media, this law is referred to as the “Law on Sustainable Runet.” Multiple amendments to two Federal laws are written in technical language and are difficult to understand for NCOs. In accordance with the text of the law, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) provides operators and owners of traffic exchange points with free of charge technical means of countering threats to the stability, security and integrity of the functioning of the internet information and telecommunications network and the public communication network in the territory of the Russian Federation. In addition, in the case of detection of such threats (the list of which will be subsequently determined by the Government of the Russian Federation), the Federal Service assumes the centralized management of the public communication network and / or issues the instructions to ensure functioning of the internet network for operators of communications which are obligatory for execution. However, in Russia, a national system of domain names will be created, and an operator established.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Pending legislative initiatives include the following in chronological order:

  • This draft law expands the spheres for which endowments may be created (it would include support for the development of charities); it also extends the means for increasing endowments and their establishment.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 221049-7 on Amendments to the Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations. On July 8, 2017, the National Assembly of the Republic of Bashkortostan and a State Duma deputy submitted this draft law to the State Duma. It proposes that a person who had or has a criminal record of being prosecuted for grave or aggravated grave crimes cannot be a head of an NCO or its structural unit (branch, affiliate or representative office) or a member of a collegial executive body of an NCO or of its structural unit. Information about the absence of a criminal record of the NCO’s head must be provided along with the package of documents for registration of the organization. The head of an organization having a criminal record is a ground for refusal of the NCO’s state registration. Soliciting information about criminal records on the head of an NCO might also complicate and delay an NCO’s registration process. The date of the first reading is not scheduled.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 326908-7 on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation (on the establishment of responsibility for the violation of the procedure for the activities of foreign media) was submitted to the State Duma on November 29, 2017. The draft law proposes huge penalties for foreign mass media outlets deemed to be “foreign agents” (FAs). If such a foreign mass media organization refuses to submit an application for inclusion in the FA register or does not apply mandatory labelling for distributed materials voluntarily, the penalty for these violations for legal entities is 500,000 rubles. The penalty amount for a repeated violation is 1,000,000 rubles, and the penalty for gross violation (i.e., two or more times during the year) is 5,000,000 rubles. The draft law passed the first reading on January 24, 2018. Since then, no developments in the consideration of the draft law were registered.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 332053-7 on State Control (Supervision) and Municipal Control in the Russian Federation was submitted to the State Duma on December 5, 2017, by the Government. The draft law aims to substantially expand the powers of state and municipal bodies to supervise and control the activities of all entities.For example, forms of control are expanded, and these bodies could visit organizations to solicit services with the purpose of checking their quality or with other purposes. The draft law passed the first reading on February 21, 2018, and the second reading was planned for July 2019, but it didn’t take place.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 345523-7 on Amendments to the Law of the Russian Federation on Mass Media and the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Informationwas submitted to the State Duma by a number of State Duma deputies and senators on December 19, 2017. It is aimed at regulating activities of “foreign mass media implementing the functions of a FA.” The draft law proposes to require such organizations to carry out their activities in the Russian Federation only after establishing legal entities in the Russian Federation, provides a possibility to recognize individuals (bloggers) as “foreign mass media acting as a FA,” and oblige owners of information resources (which are not “foreign agents”) to attach a statement indicating that materials and information provided by “foreign agents” were created by a FA. The draft law passed the first reading on January 12, 2018 and since then no further developments were registered.
  • Draft Federal law No. 441707-7 on Amendments to the Federal law on Charitable Activities and Charitable Organizations was submitted to the State Duma by a group of deputies on April 13, 2018. The draft law proposes to define the concept of a “box for collecting donations.” The draft law proposes the following definition: “a box for collection of donations – any capacity (including a device) for collection of donations, the right to use of which belongs exclusively to NCOs, whose bylaws provide for the right to carry out charitable activities.” The draft law also provides for two types of boxes: portable and stationary. Installation and use of stationary boxes are allowed on the basis of an agreement with the owner (user) of the premises, except when they are installed by relevant NCOs during public events organized by them (or their associations) or with written permission from the organizers of a public event. The use of a portable box is allowed only during a public event if there is a document from the organizer of the event. Requirements for boxes, the procedure for their installation and use should be determined by the regulatory act of the Government of the Russian Federation. The adoption of this draft law will improve NCO legal environment as presently collecting cash donations is not regulated, and therefore, de facto not permitted by law. On May 20, 2019, a corrected text of the draft law was submitted to the State Duma. The draft law passed the first reading on October 8, 2019.