Russia

Last updated: 17 June 2022

Coronavirus Response

Since March 2020, the situation of non-commercial organizations (NCOs) has begun to worsen, especially financially. On top of this, the COVID-19 “the self-isolation” regime was introduced in all the Russian regions (certain restrictions began to be lifted in July 2020, but they were again introduced in September-October 2020). NCOs, therefore, had to switch to remote work, which generally limited their ability to provide public benefit services to the most vulnerable segments of the population, such as elderly and disabled people, children, and the homeless.

The restrictions on activities imposed due to COVID-19 have caused confusion for NCOs about how they can work in the new environment. NCOs are concerned about their ability to act in public places (i.e., distributing info on internet and participating in organizing events), the enforcement and implementation of contractual obligations, appealing actions of government bodies, participation in legislative processes and decision-making, and remote work requirements in compliance with the law.

For more details, see the ICNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker’s entry for Russia.

Update

On June 7, 2022, the draft law “On Control over the Activities of Persons under Foreign Influence” (draft law) passed the first reading in the State Duma. This draft law will significantly worsen the regulation of foreign agents (FAs) and create new grounds for including persons (including legal entities) in the registries of FAs. It is expected that the draft law will unify the regulations governing all types of FAs and that it will likely be adopted before July 31, 2022.

The draft law envisions the following changes:

  • Russian and foreign commercial legal entities will be added to the list of persons that can be assigned the status of a FA. Currently, Russian commercial organizations, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), cannot be recognized as FAs. Indeed, upon enactment, any individual or legal entity, with the exception of Russian state entities, could be recognized as a foreign agent.
  • Recognition as a FA will no longer require foreign funding. “Being under foreign influence” will be sufficient. A new definition of “foreign influence” will be introduced: “providing support from a foreign source to a person and (or) influencing a person, including by coercion, persuasion and (or) in other ways.”
  • FAs will be subject to additional prohibitions and restrictions, including, among others:
  • Prohibition against participating in the activities of commissions, committees, consultative, advisory, expert and other bodies formed under public authorities;
  • Prohibition against teaching and educational outreach activities to minors, including the release of information products for minors;
  • Prohibition against acting as a supplier in the procurement of goods, works, services to meet state or municipal needs;
  • Ban on receiving state financial support;
  • Ineligibility to apply the simplified taxation system or simplified accounting (financial) statements; and
  • Prohibition against investing in business entities of strategic importance that ensure the defense of the country and the security of the state.

FAs will be subject to additional responsibilities, including:

  • To disclose their status as a FA when carrying out political activities and collecting information in the military and military-technical spheres;
  • To disclose their status as an FA to its founders (participants), beneficiaries, and employees;
  • For all types of FAs that are not legal entities, to establish a Russian legal entity to distribute printed, audio, audiovisual and other messages and materials intended for an indefinite number of persons.

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” (NCOs-FAs). As of February 28, 2022, the Registry of NCOs-FAs included 210 entries/records (one was duplicated) of NCOs with 29 of them registered voluntarily (mostly because of considerable administrative penalties). 138 NCOs were exempted from the Registry (90 due to their liquidation and 49 due to ceasing to perform the functions of a foreign agent), so the total number of “active” NCOs-FAs is 72.

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” NCO-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);
  • links to materials of “undesirable” organizations becoming considered illegal content and banned for dissemination on social networks (Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 530-FZ);
  • expanding the list of grounds for recognizing the activities of foreign or international non-governmental organizations as “undesirable” including receipt of information about the provision of intermediary services when conducting transactions with monetary funds and (or) other property belonging to a foreign or international non-governmental organization, whose activities are recognized as undesirable in the territory of Russia, in order to carry out activities by such an organization that pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order, defense or security of the state. Russian citizens and legal entities are prohibited from participating in the activities of an “undesirable” organizations outside the Russian Federation (Federal law of June 28, 2021, 230-FZ);
  • strengthening administrative liability for participation in the activities of “undesirable” organizations (Federal law of June 28, 2021, No. 232-FZ);
  • banning on the creation (opening) in the territory of the Russian Federation of structural units of ”undesirable” organizations and the termination, in accordance with the procedure established by the Russian legislation, of the activities of such structural units previously created (opened) in the territory of the Russian Federation (Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-FZ);
  • banning the dissemination of information materials, as well as the production or storage of such materials for the purpose of distribution (Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-FZ);
  • banning the implementation of programs (projects) in the territory of the Russian Federation for organizations deemed “undesirable” (Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-FZ);
  • banning the conducting any financial transactions if one of the parties is an organization whose activities are recognized as “undesirable” (Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-FZ);
  • banningthe creation of legal entities or the participation in them of “undesirable” organizations (Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-FZ);
  • introducingcriminal liability for managing the activities of an “undesirable” organization in the territory of the Russian Federation, including  imposing jail terms for fundraising for “undesirable” organizations (Federal Law of July 1, 2021, No. 292-FZ)

As of February 28, 2022, the list of foreign and international non-governmental organizations whose activities are deemed undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation amounts to 51 organizations.  In addition, the MoJ’s Registry of SONCOs-PPBS contained 1652 entries.

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 (PPBS); 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 NCO–PPBS 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.

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 February 28, 2022, the registry of foreign media outlets implementing the functions of foreign agents (FM-FAs Registry) contains 118 entries, including 76 individuals, 23 media outlets or legal mass media entities, and 17 LLCs established according to Russian law by individuals and foreign media deemed FM-FAs.

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.

Restrictive laws adopted at the end of 2019 include:

  • Federal Law No. 407-FZ of December 2, 2019 on Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation with the purpose of establishing a prohibition to act as a founder (member, participant) of a non-commercial organization on persons with respect to whom a decision is adopted to freeze (block) funds or other property in connection with sufficient grounds to suspect them of involvement into terrorist activities. According to this law, individuals having their assets frozen because of terrorism allegations would be banned from being founders, participants, or members of NCOs. These amendments, according to the Government, would help secure the not-for-profit sector against abuse for financing terrorist activities. However, the criteria for making a decision on the freezing (blocking) of funds or other property in connection with sufficient reasons to suspect involvement in terrorist activities are not specified, making arbitrary application of the law possible. The law came into force on December 13, 2019.
  • Federal Law No. 426-FZ of December 2, 2019 on Amending the Law of the Russian Federation on the Mass Media and the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information. The so-called law on “individual-foreign agents” came into force on December 2, 2019. Additionally, all media recognized as FAs (including individuals recognized as media-FAs) must establish a Russian legal entity by February 1, 2020. The law extends the rules on the activities of foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent (mass media-FA) and (NCO-FA) to individuals and commercial organizations.
  • The adoption of the above law was followed by the adoption of Federal Law No. 443-FZ of December 16, 2019 on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses (CoAO)(on establishing liability for violation of the procedure for the activity of a foreign media outlet). The law proposes to impose fines as high as 5,000,000 rubles ($81,300) for repeated violations of media laws related to “foreign agents.” First-time offenses carry smaller penalties: “foreign agent” news outlets will face fines as high as 1,000,000 rubles ($16,260) and individual “foreign agents” could be forced to pay as much as 10,000 rubles ($163). The law came into force on February 1, 2020.

The decision to recognize an individual as a mass media-FA is made by the MoJ in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After an individual is recognized as a mass media-FA, it is obliged to:

  • establish a Russian legal entity or notify the MoJ of all previously established legal entities within one month from the date of recognition as a “mass media-FA.” Information about these legal entities is also subject to inclusion in the Register of mass media-FAs, and they acquire the status of “Russian legal entity performing the functions of a foreign agent”;
  • label messages and materials distributed in the territory of Russia indicating that these messages and materials are created and/o) distributed by a “mass media-FA”; and
  • comply with the requirements of the NCO law in the part that must be determined by a special act of the MoJ to be issued in accordance with this law.

The obligation to establish a legal entity forces an individual to incur financial costs associated with its registration (legal services, payment of state duty), and opening and maintaining a bank account.

The legislative procedure for notifying of an individual on recognition of their status as a “mass media-FA” by the MoJ is not fixed in the law. In fact, all individuals are at risk of administrative penalties (a fine of 10,000 rubles) if they do not keep track of the Register of foreign media-FAs and do not learn about their recognition as a “mass media-FA” and accordingly, do not fulfill the requirements of the law on establishing a legal entity and labeling materials.

The procedure for removing an individual from the Register of mass media-FAs is also not regulated by the law, as it mentions only the MoJ’s right to include information about an individual in the corresponding Register and to exclude it.

  • The adoption of the previous law was followed by the adoption of the Federal law No. 443-FZ of December 16, 2019 on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses (CoAO)(on establishing liability for violation of the procedure for the activity of a foreign media outlet). The law proposes to impose fines as high as 5,000,000 rubles ($81,300) for repeated violations of media laws related to “foreign agents.” First-time offenses carry smaller penalties: “foreign agent” news outlets will face fines as high as 1,000,000 rubles ($16,260) and individual “foreign agents” could be forced to pay as much as 10,000 rubles ($163). The law comes into force on February 1, 2020.

The following positive laws were adopted during the first quarter of 2020:

  • Federal law No. 60-FZ of March 18, 2020, on Amendments to Articles 2 and 31-4 of the Federal Law on NCOs establishes a new basis for including SONCOs in the Register of SONCO-providers of public benefit services – “proper implementation of projects that provide the implementation of activities in one or more priority areas in the sphere of providing public benefit services using grants from the President of Russia aimed at the development of civil society.” The evaluation of such projects’ results will be carried out by an organization authorized to provide grants from the President of the Russian Federation – the Presidential Grants Fund. Evaluated SONCOs will not need to obtain additional opinions on the quality of services they provided.
  • Federal law 113-FZ of April 4, 2020 on Amendments to the Federal law on Charitable Activities and Volunteering was submitted to the State Duma by a group of deputies on April 13, 2018. The law provides for the definition of the concept of a “box for collecting donations:” “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 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 during a public event if there is a document from the organizer of the event. Requirements for boxes, and 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 law will improve the NCO legal environment as presently collecting cash donations is not regulated, and therefore, de facto not permitted by law (while the cash collections are not specifically prohibited by law, they would violate multiple other legal rules, subject to penalties). It also sets rules protecting NCOs from abuse by criminals who “fundraise” from the public under the guise of and legitimate NCOs. The law will come into force 180 days after its official publication.

The presidential amendments to the Russian Constitution were approved by nationwide vote on July 1, 2020. The spread of COVID-19 caused the President to repeatedly postpone the vote, and even when the date of the vote was not yet announced, a mass campaign supporting adoption of the whole package of amendments as a single document (including controversial provisions such as the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over decisions of international bodies and the possibility for the President to stay in power until 2036, among others) continued even during the pandemic, with federal and regional authorities repeatedly pushing the need for nation-wide approval. The period before the vote on constitutional amendments was marked by a fierce “search for an external enemy,” and the authorities suppressed any attempts to explain why someone might consider voting against adoption of the amendments. New attacks on human rights NCOs (for example, GOLOS) and independent media were registered.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian Parliament and government adopted a number of laws and implementing regulations, which contradicted constitutional laws designed to protect personal data. This included:

– the law providing for the creation of a single database of Russian citizens’ personal data (Federal law No.168-FZ of June 8, 2020, on the Unified Federal Information Register Containing Information about the Population of the Russian Federation), which would gather a significant volume of personal data on all citizens without providing reasonable protection of this data or clearly stating the limitations of its use;

– the law on conducting an experiment with the purpose of developing artificial intelligence (AI) in Moscow (Federal Law of March 24, 2020 No.123-FZ On Conducting Experiment on Establishing Special Regulation with the Purpose to Create Necessary Terms for Development and Introduction of Technology of Artificial Intelligence in the Constituent Entity of the Russian Federation— the City of Federal Importance Moscow and Amendments to Article 6 and 10 of the Federal law on Personal Data); and

– multiple implementing regulations allowing a broad range of state bodies to collect personal data, without meaningfully defining and restricting its use or addressing data protection (i.e., regulations requiring mandatory installation of movement tracking apps on mobile devices, expanding use of facial recognition technologies, and others).

Such legislation, as well as the de facto use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, threatens the security and privacy of citizens as well as human rights. During the COVID-19 pandemic, no meaningful public discussion about the adoption of such legislation took place. At the same time, it appeared that many NCO leaders and legal experts lacked knowledge and context to understand content of the legislation and its impact on civic freedoms. This prevented them from properly tracking and engaging in effective advocacy against its adoption, defending their rights, and informing broader civil society about the new legislation.

On the other hand, Russian authorities adopted some legislative acts that made it easier for NCOs to work during the pandemic. These include:

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 Body Ministry of Justice
Approximate Number 209,976 as of February 28, 2022 (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 145,478,097 ( January 1, 2022)
Capital Moscow
Type of Government Federation
Life Expectancy at Birth 67.1 years (male); 77.8 years (female) in 2019
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 Groups Russian 80.90%, Tatar 3.87%, Ukrainian 1.41%, Bashkir 1.15%, Chuvash 1.05%, other or unspecified 12.1% (2010 census)
GDP per capita $10,126.7 (2020) (World Bank)
Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 52 (2020) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 101 (2021)

1 – 139
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 76 (2020) 178 – 1
Transparency International 136 (2021) 1 – 180

Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: 14 (2022)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
100 – 0
1 – 7
1 – 7

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1973
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1991
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1973
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention Yes 1956
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1969
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981 (as Soviet Union)
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2004
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
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 Freedoms Yes 1998
Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE Yes 1990

* 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; March 14, 2020) 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.

The Law of the Russian Federation on the Amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of March 14, 2020 No. 1-FKZ on Improving the Regulation of Certain Issues of the Organization and Functioning of Public Authority was submitted to the State Duma by the President on January 20, 2020. This provoked many critical comments, as it included controversial provisions on the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over decisions of international bodies and the possibility for the President to stay in power until 2036, among others. The State Duma Council has repeatedly extended the deadline for submitting amendments to the second reading. On March 11, 2020, constitutional amendments were approved by the Federation Council, and on March 14, the President signed the text of this law.

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation confirmed the compliance of the law’s provisions with the Constitution, and the adoption of presidential amendments to the Russian constitution were finally approved by nationwide vote on July 1, 2020. The spread of COVID-19 caused the President to repeatedly postpone the vote, and even when the date of the vote was not yet announced, a mass campaign supporting adoption of the whole package of amendments as a single document (including controversial provisions, such as the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over decisions of international bodies and the possibility for the President to stay in power until 2036, among others) continued, with federal and regional authorities repeatedly pushing the need for nation-wide approval. The law does not contain provisions which would directly affect NCOs’ activities, but it is of concern to civil society at large, as it eliminates an opportunity for NCOs to defend human rights by appealing to international institutions.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

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

  • Constitution of the Russian Federation (adopted by popular vote on December12, 1993, with amendments approved by all-Russian vote on July 1, 2020).
  • 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 Picketsentered 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 Offensesentered 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 Federationentered 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. 469-FZ of December 18, 2018, on Amendments to the Federal Law on Objects of Cultural Heritage (Monuments of History and Culture) of the Peoples of the Russian Federation. The law grants volunteers the right to carry out certain types of work on the preservation of cultural heritage objects included in the corresponding register. According to the previous legislation, objects of cultural heritage are protected by the state, and only certified specialists can be involved in their restoration. The new law permits volunteers to carry out certain types of work that do not require special certification. The law does not provide details regarding such work. The law entered into force on December 29, 2018, and the Russian government is expected to adopt the relevant implementing regulation.
  • Federal Law No. 553-FZ of December 27, 2018 on Amending the Article 3 of the Federal Law on Special Assessment of Working Conditionscame into force on January 8, 2019. According to the new law, the procedure for special assessment of working conditions, established by law, does not apply to religious organizations.
  • Federal Law No. 555-FZ of December 27, 2018, on Amendments to Part 1 of Article 3-1 of the Federal Law on Measures to Influence Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federationentered into force on January 8, 2019. The law expands the list of grounds for recognizing the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization as “undesirable” in the territory of Russia. Thus, in addition to threatening the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, the country’s defense capability, or the security of the state, a foreign or international non-governmental organization may be deemed “undesirable” 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).”
  • Federal Law No. 557-FZ of December 27, 2018 on Amending Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the RussianFederation entered into force on January 8, 2019. The law establishes administrative liability for the involvement of minors in unauthorized public events.
  • 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 Protection. The 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 Offensesestablishes 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 Codeof 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 Protectioncame into force on November 1, 2019. In the 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.
  • Order of the MoJ No. 279 of December 6, 2019 amending Order No. 170 of the MoJ of August 16, 2018exempted NCOs from reporting on funds received from Russian legal entities, when such entities receive funding from foreign sources, if the NCOs received such funds in 2019, thus postponing for another year this reporting requirement. Under the NCO law, NCOs have been required to report on the foreign sources from Russian entities-donors, while at the same time, Russian entities are not required to provide NCOs with this information, making it impossible for NCOs to report about it. Failure to report, however, is punishable with severe penalties.
  • Federal law No.432-FZ of December 16, 2019 on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in order to improve the legislation of the Russian Federation on combating corruption was signed by the President on December 16, 2019. The law allows government and municipal employees, deputies of all levels as well as persons holding public positions to serve as leaders of NCOs (without compensation) without foreign participation, after notifying the government employer in advance. Previously, all these categories of government employees were prohibited from serving in NCOs’ management bodies. The law came into force on December 27, 2019.
  • Concept on Support for Development of Charitable Activitieswas adopted by the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation of November 15, 2019 No. 2705-r. The main directions of promoting charity development in the Concept are the following:
    • promoting the development of charity institutions;
    • promoting the development of charity for individuals and commercial organizations;
    • promoting the development of culture of charity;
    • promoting the development of support for charity in the regions of the Russian Federation; and
    • promoting the development of international activities in the field of charity.

One of the main results of the Concept’s implementation should be a change in the legislative regulation of charitable activities, for example:

  • improving regulation of the formation of endowments;
  • enabling charitable organizations to repay a loan using donations, and setting a limit on the amount of interest on a loan that can be paid using donations;
  • ensuring effective prevention and suppression of fraudulent activities conducted under the disguise of collecting charitable donations;
  • removing the need for charities to submit duplicate reports to state authorities; and
  • developing proposals for improving regulation and law enforcement practice in the field of government control over charitable NCOs’ management bodies when making large transactions and transactions with interest.

During implementation of the Concept, issues around establishing additional tax benefits and cases of exemption from taxation will be worked out. The Concept also envisions development of a training system for NCOs and a support system for newly created organizations. In the field of the development of international charitable activities, the Concept’s implementers (Government of the Russian Federation) plan to promote the work of Russian charitable organizations abroad and build global cooperation.

In accordance with the adopted amendments, in order to recognize an individual as a “mass media-FA,” two characteristics are required:

  • distribution of printed, audio, audio-visual and other messages and materials intended for an unlimited number of persons (including using the Internet information and telecommunications network»); and
  • receipt of funds and (or) other property from foreign states, their state bodies, international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, stateless persons or persons authorized by them, and (or) from Russian legal entities that receive funds and (or) other property from these sources.

The decision to recognize an individual as a mass media-FA is made by the MoJ in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After an individual is recognized as a mass media-FA, it is obliged to:

  • establish a Russian legal entity or notify the MoJ of all previously established legal entities within one month from the date of recognition as a “mass media-FA.” Information about these legal entities is also subject to inclusion in the Register of mass media-FAs, and they acquire the status of “Russian legal entity performing the functions of a foreign agent”;
  • label messages and materials distributed in the territory of the Russian Federation indicating that these messages and materials are created and/o) distributed by a “mass media-FA”; and
  • comply with the requirements of the NCO law in the part that must be determined by a special act of the MoJ to be issued in accordance with this law.

The obligation to establish a legal entity forces an individual to incur financial costs associated with its registration (legal services, payment of state duty), and opening and maintaining a bank account.

The legislative procedure for notifying of an individual on recognition of their status as a “mass media-FA” by the MoJ is not fixed in the law. In fact, all individuals are at risk of administrative penalties (a fine of 10,000 rubles) if they do not keep track of the Registry of foreign media-FAs and do not learn about their recognition as a “mass media-FA” and accordingly, do not fulfill the requirements of the law on establishing a legal entity and labeling materials.

The procedure for removing an individual from the Register of mass media-FAs is also not regulated by the law, as it mentions only the MoJ’s right to include information about an individual in the corresponding Register and to exclude it.

  • Federal law No. 443-FZ of December 16, 2019 on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses (CoAO)(on establishing liability for violation of the procedure for the activity of a foreign media outlet). The law proposes to impose fines as high as 5,000,000 rubles ($81,300) for repeated violations of media laws related to “foreign agents.” First-time offenses carry smaller penalties: “foreign agent” news outlets will face fines as high as 1,000,000 rubles ($16,260) and individual “foreign agents” could be forced to pay as much as 10,000 rubles ($163). The law came into force on February 1, 2020.
  • Law of the Russian Federation on the Amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation of March 14, 2020 No. 1-FKZ on Improving the Regulation of Certain Issues of the Organization and Functioning of Public Authoritywas submitted to the State Duma by the President on January 20, 2020. It provoked a lot of critical comments, as it included such controversial provisions as: on the supremacy of the Russian Constitution over decisions of international bodies, the possibility for the President to stay in power until 2036, and others. The State Duma Council has repeatedly extended the deadline for submitting amendments to the second reading. On March 11, constitutional amendments were approved by the Federation Council. On March 14, the President signed the text of this law. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation confirmed the compliance of the law’s provisions with the Constitution. This law should have been approved by the universal vote (nation-wide people’s vote, different from referenda) scheduled for April 22, 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the President repeatedly postponed the vote, that finally took place on July 1, 2020. The law does not contain provisions which would directly affect NCOs’ activities, but is of concern to civil society at large, as it eliminates an opportunity for NCOs to defend human rights by appealing to international institutions.
  • Federal law No. 60-FZ of March 18, 2020, on Amendments to Articles 2 and 31-4 of the Federal Law on NCOsestablishes a new basis for including SONCOs in the Register of SONCO-providers of public benefit services – “proper implementation of projects that provide the implementation of activities in one or more priority areas in the sphere of providing public benefit services using grants from the President of the Russian Federation aimed at the development of civil society.” The evaluation of such projects’ results will be carried out by an organization authorized to provide grants from the President of the Russian Federation – the Presidential Grants Fund. Evaluated SONCOs will not need to obtain additional opinions on the quality of services they provided.
  • Federal law No. 100-FZ of April 1, 2020, on Introducing Changes to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Articles 31 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federationwas adopted by the State Duma on March 31 and signed by the President on April 1. The first group of amendments to the Criminal Code establishes that public dissemination, under the guise of reliable reports of false public interest information, which results by negligence in the infliction of harm to human health, will be punished with a fine in the amount from 700,000 to 1,500,000 rubles (approximately $10,000 – $21,450) or the salary or other income of the convicted person for a period of eighteen months, or correctional labor for a term up to one year, compulsory works for a term up to three years, or imprisonment for the same term. The same act which results by negligence in human death or other grave consequences, shall be punished by a fine in the amount of 1.500,000 to 2,000,000 rubles (approximately $21,450 – $28,570) or the salary or other income of the convicted person for a period of eighteen months to three years, or correctional labor for up to two years, or hard labor for a term up to five years, or imprisonment for the same term. The second group of amendments is related to huge penalties for violations of quarantine. Thus, changes increase criminal responsibility over violation of sanitary-epidemic rules: up to three years in prison; if such violation caused accidental death of two and more persons: up to seven years in prison (Article 236 of the Criminal Code).
  • Federal law 113-FZ of April 4, 2020 on Amendments to the Federal law on Charitable Activities and Volunteeringprovides for the definition of the concept of a “box for collecting donations:” “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 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 during a public event if there is a document from the organizer of the event. Requirements for boxes, and 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 law will improve the NCO legal environment as presently collecting cash donations is not regulated, and therefore, de facto not permitted by law (while the cash collections are not specifically prohibited by law, they would violate multiple other legal rules, subject to penalties). It also sets rules protecting NCOs from abuse by criminals who “fundraise” from the public under the guise of and legitimate NCOs. The law came into force on October 4, 2020.
  • Order of the President of the Russian Federation of May 6, 2020 No. 120-rp(on the allocation of funds from the reserve fund of the President of the Russian Federation) in the amount of 3,000,000,000 rubles to the fund operating presidential grants for the development of civil society (i.e. through provision of grants to SONCOs) including for the mandatory purchase of personal protective equipment for NCO employees and volunteers. This is one of the measures to support the NCO sector, which the President announced on April 30, 2020. This program started implementation in June, when the Fund for Presidential Grants announced a Special Competition to support SONCOs during the fight against the spread of COVID-19. By July 15 (the deadline for submitting applications), 3,868 applications were received which are subject for further review. The results of the Special Competition were announced on August 31, 2020.
  • Federal law on May 23, 2020, No. 154-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation, which provides for changes in legislation on elections and referendums and basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right to participate in referendums for citizens of the Russian Federation. In addition to letting voters cast their ballot by mail or via the internet, elections candidates will now be allowed to collect voter signatures through the government services portal “Gosuslugi.” This law also provides for banning persons convicted of crimes of average gravity from standing as candidates in any election. The ban is to be active five years after expungement of conviction. The law prohibits persons convicted of involving minors in crimes and inducing them to suicide, kidnapping, obstruction of electoral commissions’ operation and exercise of electoral rights, falsification of voting documents, public calls for extremism and infringement of territorial sovereignty, fraud, money laundering and repeated violation of the order of organizing and holding rallies from running for election. Previously, such a ban was applied to grave crimes’ convicts.
  • Federal Law of May 25, 2020 No. 163-FZ on Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation. This law provides, in particular, for increasing the maximum level of compensation for bank deposits for citizens in some cases up to 10,000,000 rubles and expanding the list of legal entities that can claim compensation for deposits, including SONCOs. Deposits placed by certain types of NCOs (or in their favor) are protected by insurance in accordance with this Federal law. Before the adoption of this law, SONCOs practically could not receive funds if the bank where they made deposits lost its license. However, these positive measures will not apply to NCO-FAs.
  • Federal Law of June 8, 2020 No. 172-FZ on Amendments to Part Two of the Tax Code of the Russian Federationthat provides, in particular, for:
    • SONCOs included in the MoED’sRegistry of SONCOs are fully exempt from social insurance payments and taxes for the second quarter of 2020 (excluding VAT);
    • funds that businesses send to NCOs and religious associations, within 1% of revenue, can be attributed to non-operating expenses, reducing profit tax due (this incentive was adopted for the first time, as donors in the Russian Federation have never enjoyed any benefits in connection with their donations, and the president has always refused to accept them before, suspecting the business only of tax fraud).
  • Federal law No.168-FZ of June 8, 2020, on the Unified Federal Information Register Containing Information about the Population of the Russian Federationprovides for creation of a single database of personal data of Russians. The unified database of individuals will contain the full name (and change of name), date of birth, gender, citizenship, marital status, as well as details of foreign and Russian passports, diplomas, and other information about education. The Register will contain information about tax and military registration, information from employment records, and information about registration in mandatory insurance systems, including Insurance Number of Individual Ledger Account [СНИЛС] and Individual Taxpayer Number [ИНН]. In total, the Register will include 30 types of information about each person in the country. The Federal Tax Service (FTS) will operate the database. Access to information about personal data is limited to FTS employees responsible for the data, but can be requested by state authorities, the Multifunctional Centers for Provision of Public and Municipal Services, the Election Commission, notaries, and directly by the citizen himself, if he needs information about himself or persons who are dependent on him. In particular, intelligence services employees will have access to the database. This can be considered a direct violation of Article 24 of the Constitution, which states that “any use and dissemination of information about the private life of a citizen is carried out with the consent of the citizen.” It also contradicts the Federal Law on Personal Data, according to which the processing of personal data must be stopped and the collected data must be destroyed within 30 days from the date of achieving the purpose of its processing. The majority of experts consider that potential negative consequences of the law include leaks of personal data in the Russian Federation, additional state surveillance, and the Unified Register’s development as a tool for total electronic control.
  • Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of June 11, 2020 No. 847 On the Registry of Non-Commercial Organizations Most Affected by the Deterioration of the Situation as a result of the Spread of Novel Coronavirus Infection. According to the Decree, NCOs are included in the Registry of Non-Commercial Organizations Most Affected by the Deterioration of the Situation as a result of the Spread of Novel Coronavirus Infection(Registry of NCO-victims of the pandemic) based on the following criteria:
    • an NCO is a private educational organization that carries out educational activities on the basis of a license as the main type of activity in accordance with the goals for the achievement of which such an organization was created;
    • an NCO is a charitable organization registered in accordance with the procedure established by the legislation of the Russian Federation and applying reduced social insurance premiums;
    • an NCO is a non-commercial organization (with the exception of state (municipal) institutions) registered in accordance with the procedure established by the legislation of the Russian Federation, carrying out activities in the field of social services for citizens, scientific research and development, education, healthcare, culture, and art in accordance with the constituent documents (the activities of theaters, libraries, museums and archives) and mass sports (with the exception of professional sport) and applying reduced social insurance premiums;
    • an NCO is included in the list of organizations whose grants received by taxpayers, provided to support science and education, culture and art, are not subject to taxation.

The MoED is the authorized body for forming and maintaining the Registry of NCO-victims of the pandemic. The Federal Tax Service and the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science provide information about organizations to be included in the Registry.

This law is aimed, in particular, at introducing norms on recognizing individuals as foreign agents, as well as the emergence of obligations for unregistered public associations to notify the MoJ about the availability of foreign funding for their recognition as foreign agents by analogy with NCOs-legal entities.

  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 482-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Measures of Influence on Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation[so called law on “censorship in internet”] entered into force on January 10, 2021. This law was developed at the request of Roskomnadzor (Russian media watchdog) as a kind of “response mechanism to censorship against Russian citizens and the media.” The law introduces a special status of an “owner of an information resource involved in violations of basic rights and liberties of citizens of the Russian Federation”; the status is to be granted by the Prosecutor General’s Office in consultation with Foreign Ministry. The same measure may be applied to internet resources found to restrict access to information of public character on grounds of nationality, language, or in answer to the introduction of sanctions against the Russian Federation or its citizens. According to the law, Roskomnadzor is empowered to fully or partially restrict access to such resources by technical means.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 497-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Picketingentered into force on January 10, 2021. The law proposes that mass actions include not only a set of single pickets united by a single plan and a common organization, but also “alternate participation of several persons in such picketing acts”, as well as “mass simultaneous stay and (or) movement of citizens in public places aimed at expressing and forming opinions”. The law also contains a list of bans for journalists covering rallies. In particular, they will not be allowed to use posters and banners, organize the collection of signatures, use “various symbols and other means of public expression of collective or individual opinion” and hide the “distinctive feature of a media representative”.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 511-FZ on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federationentered into force on January 10, 2021. This law is related to so called “law on the censorship in Internet” (Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 482-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Measures of Influence on Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation) and was submitted as a “response” to blocking Russian official media sources in internet and is targeted primarily against YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. Now, for actions in which the authorities see censorship, the Prosecutor General’s Office, after consultations with the Foreign Ministry, will be able to give the information resource the status of “allowing censorship against Russian publications and broadcasters.” This will lead to sanctions: administrative fines, slowdown of Internet traffic and blocking.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 525-FZ on Amendments to Article 330-1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federationcame into force on March 1, 2021. It is related to the Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 481-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in terms of establishing additional measures to counter threats to national security. The law provides for the amendment of Article 3301 of the Criminal code (Malicious evasion of obligations provided for by the legislation of the Russian Federation in connection with the recognition of a person as performing the functions of a foreign agent) and establishes criminal liability of natural persons, NCOs and media recognized as “foreign agents” for violation of their obligations. It proposes the following punishment: a fine in the amount of up to 300 thousand rubles [appr. $4,055], or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of up to two years, or by compulsory works for a term of up to 480 hours, or by corrective labor for a term of up to two years, or by imprisonment for the same term. If a person was already punished for the violation in accordance with the CAO, he/she shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of up to 300 thousand rubles [appr. $4,055], or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of up to two years, or by compulsory works for a term of up to 480 hours, or by compulsory labor for a term of up to five years, or by imprisonment for the same term. Due to a possible broad interpretation of the notion of “malicious evasion” it can lead to imprisonment of human rights defenders.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 530-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection[so called law on “censorship in social media”] came into force on February 1, 2021. The law introduces the concept of “the owner of a social network” on the Internet. It also provides for obligations for the owner of a social network, access to which during the day is more than 500 thousand users. In addition, the owner of the social network will have to independently monitor a number of types of illegal content. This list includes, in particular, the following categories of materials:
    • information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, its symbols and authorities; and
    • information with calls for riots, participation in unauthorized public events, fake news, information and links to materials of undesirable organizations.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 538-FZ on Amendments to Article 128-1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federationentered into force on January 10, 2021. The law broadens definition of “libel” crime, performed under aggravative circumstances, by including into it dissemination of knowingly false information made in public, “with the use of informational-telecommunications networks, including Internet”. It also substantially increases punishment for libel, adding to it prison term, up to 5 years. It expands definition of “libel” crime, which has already been very vague, and established cruel penalties for it.
  • Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 541-FZ Amendments to the Federal Law on Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Picketingentered into force on January 10, 2021. The law provides for additional restrictions on fundraising for the preparation and holding of a public event. For example, its organizers will be prohibited from accepting funding from foreign states, organizations and citizens, NCOs-FAs, Russian citizens under 16 years of age, anonymous donors and legal entities registered less than a year before. According to the results of the campaign, its organizers will have to submit a report on the expenditure of funds to the authority with which the public event was coordinated. This law introduces new restrictions on foreign funding and NCOs-FAs activities.
  • Federal law of February 24, 2021, No. 14-FZ on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federationproposes to expand the effect of Article 13.15 of CAO, which provides for liability for abuse of freedom of the media. It is proposed to supplement this article with three new parts on responsibility for the dissemination of information, respectively, about an NCO, an unregistered public association, an individual included in the registries of organizations and individuals performing the functions of a foreign agent. It establishes identical penalties: “a fine for citizens in the amount of two thousand to two thousand five hundred rubles with or without confiscation of the subject of an administrative offense; on officials – from four thousand to five thousand rubles with or without confiscation of the subject of an administrative offense; for legal entities – from forty thousand to fifty thousand rubles with or without confiscation of the subject of an administrative offense. It is also proposed to supplement CAO with new Articles 19.7.5-3 and 19.7.5-4, which establish administrative liability for violation of the procedure for the activities of a public association operating without acquiring the rights of a legal entity (unregistered public association) and violation of obligations by an individual acting as a foreign agent. This law is related to the adopted Federal Law of December 30, 2020 No. 481-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in terms of establishing additional measures to counter threats to national security and entered into force on March 1, 2021.
  • Federal law of February 24, 2021, No. 24-FZ on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federationprovides for increasing liability for violations in the preparation and conduct of public events, stipulating fines from 2,000 to 4,000 rubles [appr. $27 – 54] for disobedience to the police orders. Repeated offences would result in fines from 10,000 to 20,000 rubles [appr. $135 – 270]. Moreover, community service is envisaged as an alternative punishment for such violations. This law entered into force on March 7, 2021.
  • Federal lawof Aril 5, 2021 No. 75-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations extends the concept of foreign sources, prohibits registration of structural units of foreign NCOs in households, introduces additional basis for unscheduled inspections and obliges NCOs-FAs and their units to submit programs and documents constituting grounds for running events and performance report to the MoJ. The law came into force on October 3, 2021.
  • Federal law of April 5, 2021, No. 85-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Education in the Russian Federationproposes to amend the law on education by introducing into it the concept of “educational outreach activities”, which will be prohibited from being conducted outside the framework established by the federal government. This new notion of “educational outreach activities” has a vast definition. According to the law, any seminars, round tables, trainings and similar events can be classified as educational activities. The law is very dangerous for NCOs conducting all sorts of trainings. There is a threat that they may lose the opportunity to include in charters and carry out any educational activities. Besides, the adopted law contains a large number of terms that are not defined in the legislation, which may lead to a broad and possibly restrictive interpretation of the concept of educational activities by state bodies. The law entered into force on June 1, 2021. As for implementing regulations, the draft Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation on Approval of the Regulation on the Implementation of Educational Outreach Activities posted for public discussion, was later rejected due to a large number of negative feedbacks. By February 1, 2022, a news version of draft decree is not published yet.
  • Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of April 19, 2021 No. 617on the Establishment of Limit Values for the Average Number of Employees and the Amount of Income of Non-Commercial Organizations in order to extend to them the specifics of regulation of labor relations and other relations directly related to them established by Chapter 48.1 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation” and Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of April 19, 2021 No. 618 on Amending the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of August 27, 2016 No. 858. Both Decrees of the Government develop the legislative norms introduced in December 2020 on the ability of NCOs to conclude fixed-term employment contracts and approve the standard form of a fixed-term employment contract, i.e., simplify the workflow of a significant number of NCOs in terms of personnel documents and reduce their costs. Decrees entered into force on April 21, 2021.
  • Federal Law No. 91-FZ of April 20, 2021 on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federationprovides for restricting parliamentary candidates who have been identified as FAs or persons affiliated with them. This law introduces two new notions into the electoral legislation: “a candidate affiliated with a person acting as a foreign agent” and “a candidate who is a natural person – a foreign agent.” The first notion designates a candidate for an elective position who, two years before the election, worked in an NCO-FA or in a FM-FA, or, carrying out political activities, received funds from NCOs or individuals who are FAs (including through intermediaries). The second notion refers to those who are included in the list of individuals who perform the functions of FAs. Now candidates will be required to indicate when communicating with government agencies and in campaign materials that they receive funding from abroad. Information on the status of a FA or affiliation with him should occupy at least 15% of the area of campaign materials and subscription lists. Affiliation with a FA is recognized if the candidate was a member of an NCO-FA or an unregistered public association, was an employee or founder of a FM-FA (including its representative office in Russia). In addition, persons who receive funding or property from FAs for conducting political activity will be also considered affiliated. Candidates included in the Registry of FM-FAs, or nominated by an electoral association are required to report about their status. Individuals are included in the registry of FAs are now required to indicate their status when making donations to the electoral fund. The law entered into force on April 20, 2021.
  • Federal Law of April 30, 2021 No. 102-FZ on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federationproposes amendments to Article 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CoAO), which provides for administrative liability for abuse of freedom of the media, namely, a new part 2.4 was introduced, according to which the composition of an administrative offense forms distribution in the media, in messages and other information and telecommunication networks of messages and (or) materials of a foreign media outlet performing the functions of a foreign agent (FM-FA) and (or) a Russian legal entity included in the Registry of FM-FAs, without indicating that these messages and (or) materials were created and (or) disseminated by FM-FA, and (or) a Russian legal entity included in the Registry of FM-FAs. The penalty for this administrative offense is a fine for citizens in the amount of 2,000 to 2,500 rubles [27-34 USD]; for officials – from 4,000 to 5,000 rubles [54-68 USD]; for legal entities – from 40,000 to 50,000 rubles [540-676 USD]. The law came into force on May 11, 2021.
  • Federal Law of April 30, 2021 No. 104-FZ on Amendments to Article 265 of Part Two of the Tax Code of the Russian Federationprovides for the formation of a unified register of NCOs in order to increase the efficiency of measures for their state support and tax incentives (businesses donating funds to NCOs included in this register will reduce their taxes, within 1% of revenue, which will be attributed to non-operating expenses). In fact, two registries that existed in parallel will be merged: the SONCO register, which since 2017 have been recipients of grants or subsidies, public service providers, social service providers, and the register of NCOs most affected by the deterioration of the situation as a result of the spread of the new coronavirus infection. The law came into force on January 1, 2022.
  • Federal Law of April 30, 2021 No. 124-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on Advertisingprovides for social advertising on the Internet. According to the law, a 5% quota is to be introduced with regard to the online placement of social advertising similar to the requirements already in force as to TV and banner advertisements. Before the adoption of this law the placement of social advertisements on the internet was carried out on the voluntary basis, NCOs were forced to draw attention to their activities on the same terms as commercial organizations. The adopted amendments are aimed at ensuring equal conditions for NCOs for the distribution of social advertising, for which an operator of social advertising will be determined by the government.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of June 1, 2021 No. 92on Approval of the Procedure for Maintaining the Registry of Unregistered Public Associations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent, the Procedure and Terms of Notification by a Public association Operating without Acquiring the Rights of a Legal Entity, on Receipt (Intention to Receive) Funds and (or) Other Property from Foreign Sources and on Participation (Intention to Participate) in Political Activities on the Territory of the Russian Federation and the Forms of Documents Submitted by the Public Association, included in the Registry of Unregistered Public Associations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent” (registered June 3, 2021 No. 63787). This Order came into force on June 14, 2021. The Order is a technical implementation of the norms introduced into the legislation on the extension to the activities of public associations that do not have the status of a legal entity, of provisions applicable exclusively to legal entities. Blurred and arbitrarily interpreted rules on the registration of unregistered public associations actually allow the MoJ to require the provision of information on the receipt of funds or other property from individuals, while the “connection” of these funds or other property with the activities of unregistered public associations in the overwhelming majority of cases is not obvious and unprovable.
  • Federal Law of June 28, 2021 No. 225-FZ on Amendments to Part One of the Civil Code of the Russian Federationprovides for the possibility of holding meetings in a remote form. According to the law, remote participation will require mandatory compliance with two conditions: reliable authentication of the participants and the properly expressed will of the participants. For NCOs, this means that they will be able to hold such meetings and submit documents to government agencies without fear of being rejected. The law came into force on July 1, 2021.
  • Federal law of June 28, 2021, No. 230-FZ on Amendments to Article 6 of the Federal Law on Counteraction to Legalization (Laundering) of Criminally Obtained Incomes and Financing of Terrorism and Article 3-1 of the Federal Law on Measures of Affecting Persons Related to Violations of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federationprovides for mandatory control over any financial transactions of NCOs, mandatory control over operations for receiving funds by individuals from payers from foreign countries included in the special list of the Central Bank and Rosfinmonitoring (not publicly available). The law also expands the list of grounds for recognizing the activities of foreign or international non-governmental organizations as “undesirable” in the Russian Federation – receipt of information about the provision of intermediary services by it when conducting transactions with monetary funds and (or) other property belonging to a foreign or international non-governmental organization, whose activities are recognized as undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation, in order to carry out activities by such an organization that pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order, defense or security of the state. Citizens of the Russian Federation and Russian legal entities are prohibited from participating in the activities of an “undesirable” organizations outside the Russian Federation. Amendments regarding control over the transfer of any funds to NCOs from abroad came into force on October 1, 2021; amendments to “Dima Yakovlev” law came into force on July 9, 2021.
  • Federal law of June 28, 2021, No. 232-FZ on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federationproposes to strengthen administrative liability for illegal arms trafficking, abuse of freedom of the media and participation in the activities of “undesirable” organizations. The amendments have expanded the effect of Art. 20.33 of the CoAO, instead of “carrying out” the activities of “undesirable” organization in the territory of the Russian Federation, the composition of an administrative offense henceforth constitutes any participation in the activities of such an organization, including outside the Russian Federation. According Art. 20.33 of the CoAO the overwhelming majority of penalties are imposed on individuals. The law came into force on July 9, 2021.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of June 28, 2021 No. 105 on the Form and Deadlines of Submission to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of Reports of Non-Commercial Organizations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent (registered on June 29, 2021 No. 64010) established new extended reporting forms for NCOs-FAs. The Order came into force on July 10, 2021.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of June 28, 2021 No. 106on Approval of the Documents Provided for in Article 2.1 of the Federal Law of December 28, 2012 No. 272-F3 on Measures of Affecting Persons Related to Violation of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of the Russian Federation (registered on June 29, 2021 No. 64011) establishes the procedure for maintaining the list of individuals-FAs. The Order came into force on July 11, 2021.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of June 28, 2021 No. 107on Amending the Procedure for Maintaining the Registry of Non-Commercial Organizations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent, approved by Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation No. 223 dated November 30, 2012, and Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of August 16, 2018 No. 170 on Approval of Reporting Forms for Non-Commercial Organizations (registered on June 29, 2021 No. 64012) approved new reporting forms for all NCOs and changed the procedure of maintaining the Registry o NCOs-FAs. The Order came into force on July 10, 2021.
  • Federal Law of July 1, 2021, No.236-FZ on the Activities of Foreign Persons in the Information and Telecommunication Network Internet in the territory of the Russian Federation envisages that a foreign IT firm must open an office or an accredited legal entity in the Russian Federation, register its personal profile on the website of Roskomnadzor communications agency and publish electronic follow-up form for Russian citizens and organizations on its website. The law also contains measures of compulsion inducing IT giants to comply with Russian legislation, which include informing users of breaching of Russian laws by a resource, restriction of payments and funds transfer, search results ban, prohibition of collection and trans-border transfer of personal data, slowing of traffic or website blocking. The law came into force on July 1, 2021, with the exception of certain provisions for which other terms of entry into force are established.
  • Federal Law of July 1, 2021, No. 290-FZ on Amendments to Article 4 of the Law of the Russian Federation on Media provides for the ban on the distribution of information in the media about the organization included in the published unified federal list of organizations, including foreign and international organizations recognized in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation terrorist, without specifying that they are eliminated or their activities are prohibited. Failures to comply with this requirement are to be punished with fines of up to 2,500 rubles [34 USD] imposed on journalists and up to 50,000 rubles [676 USD] imposed on the editorial boards of the media involved. The law entered into force on July 12, 2021.
  • Federal Law of July 1, 2021, No. 292-FZ on Amendments to Article 284-1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation completed Art. 284-1 of the Criminal Code which contained one corpus delicti – criminal liability for managing the activities of an “undesirable” organization in the territory of the Russian Federation, – with three separate corpus delicti: participation in any form in the activities of an “undesirable” organization, providing or collecting funds or providing financial services to such an organization, organization of its activities in the territory of the Russian Federation. The law, in particular, provides for imposing jail terms for fundraising for “undesirable” organizations. The violation will be punishable by compulsory labor for up to 360 hours, compulsory labor for up to four years with possible restraint of liberty for up to two years, and imprisonment for a term of one to five years. The law entered into force on July 12, 2021.
  • Federal Law of July 2, 2021, No. 323-FZ on Amendments to Article 26 of the Federal Law on Banks and Banking Activitiesobliges credit institutions to provide the MoJ, upon its request, with access to financial documents of NCOs and information on transactions and accounts of NCOs, which constitutes bank secrecy (except for religious organizations). Despite the stipulation in the law of the obligation of the MoJ not to disclose information constituting bank secrets, there are very serious fears of leakage of this information or its use in order to put pressure on NCOs. The law came into force on July 13, 2021.
  • Federal law of July 2, 2021 352-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation amended the procedure for NCOs-FAs’ submission of auditor’s report as part of their reporting. Changes have been made to Art. 32 of the Federal Law of January 12, 1996 No. 7-FZ on Non-Commercial Organizations, according to which an NCO-FA will have to post an audit report on the state information resource of accounting (financial) statements – https://bo.nalog.ru/, which is administered by the Federal Tax Service. After that, NCO-FA will only have to send to the MoJ information confirming the submission of an audit report on this resource. And the MoJ will receive all the information it needs using a unified system of interdepartmental electronic interaction. This law entered into force on January 1, 2022.
  • Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of July 30, 2021 No. 1290 on the Registry of Socially Oriented Non-Commercial Organizations was developed in compliance with previously adopted legislative changes, in accordance with which two registries will be united into a single registry, which were previously maintained in parallel:
    • registry of SONCOs, which since 2017 have been recipients of grants provided by the President of the Russian Federation or recipients of subsidies and grants from federal and regional executive authorities; and
    • the registry of NCOs most affected by the deteriorating situation as a result of the spread of the new coronavirus infection.

The Decree entered into force on January 1, 2022.

  • Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of August 17, 2021 No. 1363 on the Approval of the Regulations on the procedure and deadlines for the submission by structural units of foreign non-profit non-governmental organizations of programs and other documents declared for implementation and being implemented on the territory of the Russian Federation, which are the basis for carrying out activities, as well as a report on implementation programs and execution of other documents that are the basis for events establishes the procedure and deadlines for submitting to the MoJ of information about the planned and ongoing programs of the structural units of the FNCO. The Decree is aimed at the technical implementation of the previously adopted legislative changes, which significantly increased the amount of information submitted by the affiliate and representative offices of FNCOs to the MoJ. The Decree entered into force on October 3, 2021.
  • Order of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation of September 28, 2021 No. 379On Approval of the List of Information in the field of Military, Military-Technical Activities of the Russian Federation, which, when Received by a Foreign State, its State Bodies, an International or Foreign Organization, Foreign Citizens or Stateless Persons Can Be Used against the Security of the Russian Federation approved a list of 60 items of information in the field of military and military-technical activities, the collection of which (provided that these actions are carried out in the interests of foreign sources, and with the provision of appropriate support) is the basis for recognizing an individual as performing the functions of a foreign agent and including this individuals persons in the corresponding registry, which is maintained by the MoJ. A number of wordings used in this Order are vague, which creates additional risks for individuals (primarily journalists) of being recognized as performing the functions of a foreign agent, for example, covering military corruption news becomes grounds for ‘foreign agent’ status. The Order entered into force on October 11, 2021.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of September 30, 2021 No. 184on the Forms and Deadlines of Submission to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of Reports of Non-Commercial Organizations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent significantly changed the reporting forms of NCOs-FAs, considerably increasing the amount of information included in the reporting. For example, instead of one reporting form ОИА001, seven new forms have been introduced, which, in particular, include not only information about the activities of NCOs-FAs in the reporting year, but also information about the governing bodies and employees; information on the expenditure of funds received from Russian legal entities, the beneficial owners of which are foreign citizens or stateless persons, and the use of other property that was previously absent. A new reporting form (ОИА005) is being introduced, in which it will be necessary to reflect information about ongoing programs, other documents that are the basis for activities. It will be necessary to include in the report basic information about the programs, for example, the name, date of approval, goals, stages, timing, territory of implementation, as well as the strategy and special conditions for implementation, the amount of funding and actual costs. The report on the conducted events will now be filled out in a separate ОИА006 form, which contains information about the full address of the venue for each event, as well as a list of event participants (so far only surname, name and patronymic), and/or its counterparties. Another innovation is the event spending report, which includes:
    • information about the funds spent on a specific event, indicating the type of spending and the document-basis for the transfer of funds (including its name and date); and
    • information about the actual use of other property: the name of the object of civil rights, the method of its use and the document-basis on which such use became possible.

According to the ОИА007 reporting form, it will be necessary to provide information on the activities that were provided for by the program or other documents, but were not carried out in the reporting period. It will be necessary to indicate the name of the document (name of the program), which provided for the activities, and the date of sending information about the planned activities to the MoJ. Totally there are seven deadlines for submitting these reporting forms, which complicate the already difficult reporting of NCOs-FAs. The Order enters into force on March 1, 2022.

  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of September 30, 2021 No. 185on the Forms and Deadlines of Submission of Reports of Non-Commercial Organizations to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation increased the volume of information included in the reporting forms of NCOs and structural units of FNCOs. of foreign non-profit non-governmental organizations. For example, NCOs will now have to provide information on the spending of funds received from Russian organizations, the beneficiaries of which are foreigners. Beneficiary owner means an individual who ultimately directly or indirectly (through third parties) owns (has a predominant participation of more than 25 percent in the capital) a legal entity or has the ability to control its actions. An additional line appears in the OH0001 reporting form that reflects information on targeted funding from citizens of the Russian Federation or Russian legal entities acting as intermediaries in the receipt of property by NCOs from foreign states, their state bodies, international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, stateless persons or authorized persons. FNCO reporting is also increased, for example, to the reporting on the amount and sources of funds and other property, their planned distribution and purposes of spending (form СП0001), sheets have been added, in which it will be necessary to report on various sources of receipt of funds and other property separately: from Russian citizens, from foreign states and their bodies, from foreign and international organizations, from foreign citizens, and from authorized persons. In addition, information about the declared programs (СП0003 form) is supplemented with new sections (the same sections appear in the forms ОИА004, ОИА005, and ОИА006), for example, section 5 “Strategy of the implemented program”, section 8 “Program implementation mechanism” appears. Information on ongoing programs (form СП0004) is a new form and contains, for example, such innovations as section 9 “Special conditions for the implementation of the program”, section 10 “Target Indicators”, sections 11 and 12, respectively, “Intended and ongoing activities”, section 13 “Participants of the ongoing program”. Information on the holding of events (form СП0005) contains a fork: if the events were not held, a check mark is enough, if they were conducted, then sheet A is filled in for each conducted: title, date of the event, address of the place where it was held. The Order enters into force on March 1, 2022.
  • Federal Law of November 22, 2021 № 377-FZ on Amendments to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation,which came into force on November 22, 2021 (with the exception of certain provisions on uniform requirements for electronic documents, which take effect on March 1, 2023). On the one hand, the adopted legislative changes are positive, as they will allow organizations to reduce paper workflow (most of it can be stored in digital format). At the same time, there are fears that small organizations will not be able to afford the establishment and maintenance of their own electronic storage system, therefore, they will use the “Work in the Russian Federation” service. Thus, the state will have complete information on each employee’s responsibilities and activities.
  • Federal Law of December 21, 2021 № 423-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation,which takes effect on March 22, 2022. Law № 115-FZ introduced a new definition of a “suspicious transaction,” which is a transaction with cash or other property, allegedly carried out for the purpose of legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime, financing of terrorism. The functions of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have been expanded (Article 4 of Law № 86-FZ), so it has the authority to assess the level of risk of conducting suspicious transactions of any legal entity or individual entrepreneur registered in Russia with an open bank account. The only exceptions are credit institutions, state bodies, and local governments. At the same time, in accordance with the amendments, banks will be required to conduct an independent assessment of each client. It is difficult to predict how the introduction of the new order will affect the activities of NCOs in Russia. Its ultimate impact will depend on law enforcement practice.
  • Federal law of December 30, 2021 No. 468-FZ on Amending the Code of Administrative Offencesproposes to supplement the provisions of the CoAO with Art. 6.34 “Violation of the rules for the installation and use of boxes for collecting donations”. The law introduces differentiated liability depending on the subject of the violation: either the violation was committed by a person who has the right to use the box, or by another person who does not have such a right. Installation and use of a box for collecting charitable donations on behalf of an NCO by a person who does not have the right to carry out this activity will entail a fine for citizens in the amount of 3,000 to 5,000 rubles [ $40-68], for officials – from 20 thousand to 50 thousand rubles [appr. $270-680], for legal entities – from 50 thousand to 150 thousand rubles [appr. $680-2,040]. In all cases, the box will be confiscated. Installation and use of the box by an organization that has the right to do so, in violation of the requirements established by law, will entail a fine for officials in the amount of 5 thousand to 10 thousand rubles [appr. $68-136], for legal entities – from 10 thousand to 50 thousand [appr. $136-680]. The box can also be confiscated. The law enters into force on February 28, 2022.
  • Order of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation dated December 30, 2021 No. 274“On Approval of the Administrative Regulations for the implementation by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation of state control (supervision) over the compliance of the activities of non-commercial organizations with the statutory goals and objectives, affiliate and representative offices of international organizations, foreign non-profit non-governmental organizations with the stated goals and objectives , as well as their compliance with the legislation of the Russian Federation” entered into force on January 11, 2022 The new Administrative Regulations makes it possible to request a large number of additional documents from the governing bodies of an NCO or FNGO (for example, documents on the website of a non-profit organization, publications in the media, including on the Internet) and increases the time for state inspection up to 45 days (previously 30 days). There is still no information about law enforcement practices.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Pending legislative initiatives include the following in chronological order:

  • Draft Federal Law No. 207015-7 on Amendments to the Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations. The MoJ has worked on preparing this draft law since August 3, 2015. The draft law updates the NCO Law to bring it into compliance with new provisions of the Civil Code, and eliminates duplicative and contradictory rules, making it easier to implement the law in a consistent, non-discretionary manner. For example, the Civil Code introduced new classifications of NCOs, dividing them into unitary and corporate; currently, the NCO law contains old definitions of NCOs including those that no longer are mentioned in the Civil Code (specifically, non-commercial partnership). On June 15, 2017, the Government approved the draft law, and submitted it to the State Duma on June 23, 2017. The date of the first reading has been repeatedly postponed, as the Legal Department of the State Duma identified a number of items that should be corrected.
  • Draft Federal Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in Connection with Improvement of Mechanisms of Formation and Utilization of Endowments of Non-Commercial Organizations was posted online on December 28, 2015. This draft law expands the spheres for which endowments may be created (it would include support for the development of charities) and 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 Information was 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.
  • Draft Federal Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in terms of clarifying the principles of processing personal data (hereinafter – PD) in state information systems). On June 4, 2018, the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media posted the text of this draft law online. The draft law mainly aims at regulating state information systems; however, it contains regulations that apply to other PD operators. Thus, the draft law proposes to establish procedure for exercising control over processing of PD by operators, who are entrusted with such data. It will be burdensome for NCOs because of the additional documentation and obligations it imposes on them.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 499538-7 on Amending Chapter 4 of Part One of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation was submitted to the State Duma by a group of deputies and members of the Federation Council on June 29, 2018. The draft law proposes to divide the existing legal form of the “Fund/Foundation” into public benefit foundations (which include public and charitable foundations/funds), and personal foundations (which are hereditary funds). So far, the draft law does not define new forms of foundations. All foundations existing now will continue to perform social activities, but new institutions will deal with and manage a person’s assets. A personal foundation could be created by one person, who will never be changed and will take full responsibility for the foundation. But it is not clear from the draft whether a personal foundation will conduct any activity, or who will receive its income.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 519530-7 on the State (Municipal) Social Order for the Provision of State (Municipal) Services in the Social Sphere was submitted to the State Duma by the Government on July 26, 2018. The draft law provides an opportunity for legal entities, including SONCOs, to receive budget funds for the provision of social services through participation in the state procurement system. The draft law covers only education, health care, social protection, employment, physical culture, sports, and tourism. SONCOs conducting activities in these spheres will be able to receive budget funding. The draft law passed the first reading on December 5, 2018, and the second reading was postponed until April 11, 2019. However, it did not take place.
  • Draft Federal law on Amendments to the Federal Law No. 38-FZ of March 30, 1995 on preventing the spread in the Russian Federation of a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV infection)was prepared by the MoJ and posted online on September 3, 2018. Article 3 of the law is supplemented by the provision that the law extends to the offices of foreign NCOs (hereinafter -FNCOs), as well as to foreign citizens and stateless persons, citizens of the Russian Federation, and registered organizations of any legal form. This means that the heads of FNCOs’ offices will be responsible for violating the legislation. In Article 24 of the law, which is devoted to the regulation of responsibility and provides disciplinary, administrative, criminal and civil liability, the draft law proposes to clarify how NCOs and offices of FNCOs should jointly conduct activity aimed at the prevention of HIV infection, if it is funded in whole or in part by foreign sources. The concept of foreign sources is completely identical to that given in Article 2 of the Federal Law on NCOs. If a Russian NCO or an FNCO’s office already carries out or intends to carry out activities in the territory of the Russian Federation to prevent the spread of HIV using foreign money or “with the participation of foreign sources,” then within three working days from the day following approval of the program or signing of the contract, or other document providing the basis for implementing such activities, the NCO or FNCO must submit the program and other documents that are the basis for carrying out activities in the field of preventing the spread of HIV infection to the authorized government body. The law does not identify to which body it is necessary to submit documents. In addition, it is not clear how to comply with the three working days requirement if NCOs or FNCOs are already engaged in activities to prevent HIV infection. It is also problematic that the documents are submitted after the signing of the contract, as this may interfere with the NCO’s ability to fulfill its contractual obligations. The authorized body examines the documents for 30 days and “sends the organization a written consent or a reasoned decision to ban the implementation of the program in the territory of the Russian Federation, the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of HIV, funded and (or) implemented with the participation of foreign sources.” Moreover, the procedure for making decisions on whether to allow or prohibit a program, and the criteria on the basis of which such a decision will be made, are unknown and are left to the authorized government body itself, which will make decisions on consent or refusal, and the motivation criteria for the decision. The draft law introduces a norm that binds NCO or FNCOs’ offices to immediately stop HIV prevention activities in the event of refusal. In the event that NCOs or FNCOs continue such activities, Rospotrebnadzor is obliged to inform the MoJ, which on the basis of the information received, appeals to a court for the liquidation of the NCO or for exclusion of the FNCO from the registry of FNCOs.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 575535-7 on Amending Article 4.1.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation was submitted to the State Duma on October 30, 2018 by a group of deputies. A date for the first reading has not yet been set. The draft law proposes lowering the penalties for certain administrative offenses. For example, the draft law replaces an administrative fine with a warning in case if an NCO commits the following offenses:
  • Article 13.11: Violation of the legislation of the Russian Federation in the field of personal data (PD);
  • Article 19.7: Failure to provide information;
  • Article 19.7.5-2: Failure to submit information by a non-commercial organization performing the functions of a FA; and
  • Article 19.34: Violation of the procedure of the activities of a non-commercial organization performing the functions of a FA.

However, the replacement of penalties with a warning does not apply to a number of offenses under the CAO, for example:

  • Article 19.5: Failure to comply in time with a legal order (decree, decision) of the body (official) exercising state supervision (control), an organization authorized in accordance with federal laws to exercise state supervision (official), [or] body (official) exercising municipal control;
  • Article 19.5.1: Failure to comply with the decision of the collegial body that coordinates and organizes activities to counter terrorism;
  • Article 19.6: Failure to take measures to eliminate the causes and conditions that contributed to the commission of an administrative offense; and
  • Article 19.30: Violation of the requirements for the conduct of educational activities and organization of the educational process.

The changes proposed by the draft law will allow NCOs to avoid huge fines in case of a number of administrative offenses. As practice shows, NCOs’ administrative offenses are mostly unintentional and are associated with the vagueness of legal norms which allow multiple interpretations.

  • Draft Federal law on Amendments to Article 13.11 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation was prepared by the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media and posted online on November 22, 2018. It proposes to introduce into Article 13.11 of the CoAO three new offenses that provide for administrative responsibility for:
    • failure by the operator of PD of the obligation to exercise proper control over the actions of the person processing PD on his behalf;
      • violation of PD legislative requirements by the person processing PD on behalf of the operator; and
      • creation of publicly available sources of PD, containing information from state and municipal information systems of PD, by unauthorized persons.

If the proposed amendments are adopted for NCOs that are operators of PD and entrust its processing to third parties, there is a risk of administrative liability for the failure to implement “proper” control, in the absence of criteria for such control.

  • The Draft Federal law on Amendments to the Federal law on Auditing. The Ministry of Finance prepared this draft law, which was posted online on January 17, 2019. It still has not been submitted to the State Duma. The draft law proposes to release funds/foundations from the obligation to undergo an annual audit, if the receipt of property and funds during the preceding reporting year does not exceed 3,000,000 rubles (with the exception of endowment funds). If adopted, this law will save many funds/foundations from a financially costly auditing procedure.
  • Draft Federal law on Amendments to the Federal law on NCOs in terms of improving the procedure of inclusion of a SONCOs in the Register of SONCOs – provides of public benefit services was prepared by the MoJ and posted online on April 3, 2019. The draft law is aimed at expanding the list of grounds for recognizing a SONCO as a provider of public benefit services. The draft law proposes to allow recognition of a SONCO as a provider of public benefit services if it has properly implemented a project or projects involving the implementation of activities in one or several priority areas of activity in the provision of public benefit services determined by the President of the Russian Federation, using the grant of the President provided for the development of civil society. If adopted, this law would considerably simplify the procedure of inclusion of NCOs in the Register of SONCO-providers of public benefit services.
  • Draft Federal law on Amendments to the Labor Code regarding the introduction of features of labor regulation for people working for employers who are SONCOs. This draft law was prepared by the Ministry of Economic Development (MoED) and posted online on April 5, 2019. This draft law proposes to include a special chapter into the Labor Code which would regulate labor relations in SONCOs and significantly simplify documentation in such organizations.
  • Draft Federal law on Introducing Changes to Some Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in terms of enhancing legal regulation of SONCOs’ activities. The draft law was prepared by the MoED and its text was posted online on May 8, 2019. The draft law may provide for important improvement of SONCOs’ legal regulation, as it proposes narrowing the definition of “political activities” by excluding from this definition participation in the discussion of legislative acts, in the activities of public councils and other similar bodies, and the implementation of research and analytical work, among other activities, for SONCOs. Many NCOs were included in the FA Registry because carrying out such activities. If the draft law is adopted, a SONCO will not be automatically required to register as a FA, if it received foreign funding and, for example, participates in a public council. The draft law also provides for the definition of “foreign sources” for the purpose of qualifying NCOs as FAs, and reduction of administrative barriers in the registration, reporting, and inspection of such NCOs, among others.
  • Draft Federal law on Amendments to the Federal law on Public Associations regarding the establishment of the notification procedure for the activities of public associations that are not legal entities was prepared by the MoJ and posted online on May 20, 2019. The draft law proposes to regulate the activities of public associations that are not legal entities (hereinafter – unregistered NCOs). This draft law contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation, restricts the rights of PAs, and unreasonably introduces new duties for them. It introduces a previously non-existent obligation for PAs that do not intend to register and acquire the status of a legal entity, to post a notification on the internet within one month from the moment of the decision to create a PA and the formation of its governing bodies. The form and procedure for submitting such notification must be approved by the MoJ. It also proposes to stipulate that unregistered PAs acquire their rights only from the date of posting the above mentioned notification; before that they cannot freely disseminate information about their activities; hold meetings, rallies and demonstrations, or processions and picketing; represent and protect their rights, the legitimate interests of their members and participants in government bodies, local governments and public associations; take initiatives on issues related to the implementation of their goals; or make proposals to state and local authorities.
  • Draft Federal law No. 736458-7 on Amendments to the Federal Law on State Registration of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs was developed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and submitted to the State Duma on June 21, 2019. It proposes to make changes aimed at protecting the rights of workers in relation to their receipt of all due payments upon liquidation of the organization. Before submitting an application for state registration of liquidation, an organization must terminate all employment contracts with employees and make all payments to dismissed workers. On September 25, 2019, the draft law passed the first reading.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 747316-7 on Amendments Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in order to establish a ban on acting as a founder (participant, member) of a non-commercial organization to persons in respect of whom it was decided to freeze (block) money or other property in connection with sufficient grounds to suspect them of involvement in terrorist the activities was submitted to the State Duma on July 5, 2019, by the Government. The draft law proposes to make identical amendments to Federal laws on PAs and NCOs, establishing that the founder, member or participant of a public association or other NCO cannot be an organization or an individual in respect of whom the interdepartmental coordinating body responsible for countering the financing of terrorism has made a decision to freeze (block) money or other property in accordance with Article 7.4 of the Federal law on Combating the Legalization (Laundering) of Proceeds from Crime and the Financing of Terrorism, until such a decision is cancelled. In accordance with the Presidential Decree No. 562 of November 18, 2015, the Interdepartmental Commission on countering the financing of terrorism is the body entitled to make such decisions. The draft law passed the first reading on September 24, 2019. However, Rosfinmonitoring (a government body responsible for maintaining a list of organizations and individuals with regard to whom there is evidence of involvement in extremist activities or terrorism) includes in the list not only persons whom a court convicted, but also persons charged, or persons suspected of terrorist and extremist cases, i.e. extrajudicial restrictions are imposed on such persons, contrary to the presumption of innocence.
  • Draft Federal Law No. 748267-7 on Amendments to the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Measures of Affecting Persons Related to Violation of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of the Russian Federation. This Federal law is also known as “Dima Yakovlev Law” or the “Anti-Magnitsky Law” and was submitted to the State Duma on July 8, 2019. This draft law almost completely copies the draft Federal Law on Amendments to the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Measures of Affecting Persons Related to Violation of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms, Rights and Freedoms of the Citizens of the Russian Federation dated December 28, 2012 prepared by the MoJ and posted online on August 1, 2018. The latter draft law was never submitted to the State Duma and no changes in its status were registered.

The proposed key changes include:

1. Activities of an NCO conducting political activities can be suspended by the MoJ not only when an NCO receives assets from US citizens (organizations) on a gratuitous basis (for example, as grants or donations), but also when it implements a service contract, and even when it purchases assets from US citizens (organizations).

2. Activities of an NCO conducting political activities can be suspended by the MoJ if US citizens (organizations) participate in activities of the NCO in any way, even if US citizens (organizations) are not designated as undesirable and are present on the territory of the Russian Federation legally. It remains to be seen how this would be implemented, but as presently written, the law can be interpreted as if the suspension of activity of an NCO can apply even in case when managers or members of an NCO have US or dual US-Russian citizenship.

3. If an NCO stops receiving assets from US citizens (organizations) and/or US citizens (organizations) stop participating in activities of an NCO, the activities of a suspended NCO may be restarted. However, the law does not provide a procedure and terms for restarting an NCO’s activities, other than the MoJ’s responsibility to notify an NCO on suspension/restart of its activity within three days from the date of making the relevant decision.

4. The MoJ may suspend an NCO’s activity based on information received from any federal executive body and the Prosecutor General’s Office. Most likely, the federal tax service and federal service on financial monitoring will provide such information. The MoJ is not required to verify received information.

5. The law also expands the list of reasons which might cause suspension of an NCO’s activities, adding the conduct of activities which are a threat to the constitutional order, the country’s defense, and safety of the country. These terms are not defined in Russian law and allow for further increasing the Prosecutor General’s discretion in determining which organizations to designate as undesirable.

Organizational Forms

As of September 1, 2014, the amendments to the Civil Code entered into force, introducing a closed list of eleven organizational forms of NCOs (Item 3 Article 50 of Civil Code of Russian Federation). This list includes: consumer cooperatives, public organizations, associations, organizations of realty owners, Cossack communities, communities of indigenous small population groups, foundations, institutions, autonomous non-commercial organizations, religious organizations, and public legal companies. Article 65.1 of the Civil Code divides legal entities into 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), and unitary entities which are those where founders may not become participants (they do not acquire the right of membership).

Public Benefit Status

Non-Commercial Organization (NCOs) may register as a charity pursuant to the Charities Law.  Federal law, however, does not provide any benefits that are particular to registered charities.  Although legislation at the regional and local levels offers tax benefits to charities, they do not necessarily require the organization to be registered as a charity at the federal level.  Tax benefits under Russian law are primarily tied to the support or performance of particular activities specified in the Tax Code. Registration of an NCO as a charity pursuant to the Charities Law provides the organization with a particular status and subjects the organization to heightened scrutiny, but this status does not in itself provide any unique tax benefits.

Amendments enacted to the NCO Law in April 2010 introduced the status of “socially oriented” organizations (“SOOs”). Under the new law, SOOs are potentially eligible for governmental support. SOOs engage in a broad range of activities, including traditional charitable work, the provision of free-of-charge legal aid and the protection of human rights. The list of the types of “socially oriented” activities as of as of October 2015 consisted of 17 types, with a list that is constantly expanding.

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 proposes to assign the status of “NCOs – provider of socially useful services” to some SOOs, including those which had the special code “provision of social services” given to them during registration (ОКВЭД). The law also provides a procedure for the assignment and removal of this status. It specifies the priority status of such organizations, in instances of state support of NCOs.

Federal Law No. 320-FZ of November 14, 2017 on Amendments to Article 31-4 of the Federal Law on NCOs refers to assessing the quality of public utility services by regional authorities and is aimed at simplifying the process for obtaining conclusions from government bodies, which are necessary for inclusion in the registry of NCO-providers of public benefit services.

Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of January 24, 2018 No. 57 on Amendments to Decree No. 89 of the Government of the Russian Federation of January 26, 2017 on the Register of Non-Commercial Organizations Providers of Public Benefit Services entered into force on February 3, 2018. An NCO-provider of public benefit services (PPBS) now can apply for inclusion in the Register to the territorial body of the MoJ. An already registered NCO-PPBS may apply for an extension of the list of provided services according to simplified procedure. Also, the deadline for considering an application for recognition of an organization as PPBS is shortened, earlier executive bodies could increase the time for consideration of up to 60 days, for making changes – not more than for 30 days. The Decree includes a new type of public benefit services aimed at promoting interethnic cooperation, preserving and protecting the identity, culture, languages and traditions of the peoples of the Russian Federation, social and cultural adaptation and integration of migrants.

Barriers to Entry

Russian law defines certain restrictions regarding potential founders of NCOsRegarding non-citizens, only those foreign nationals and stateless persons who are “legally domiciled in the Russian Federation” may be founders, members, or participants in public associations or NCOs.  Certain persons may not become founders, members or participants, including:

  • Foreign nationals or stateless persons whose stay is deemed “undesirable”;
  • Persons appearing on a money laundering and anti-terrorist financing watch list maintained by the Russian government;
  • Organizations that have been suspended under the Law Countering Extremist Activities;
  • Persons found by court decision to show signs of participating in extremist activity; and
  • Persons who are currently incarcerated as a result of conviction of a crime.

Public associations, such as public organizations and public foundations, by definition can be created only by natural persons. These organizations cannot be founded by legal persons, but other public organizations may join as members (Articles 18 and 19, Law on Public Associations). By comparison, legal persons, including commercial entities, may found all other forms of NCOs.

A non-commercial organization shall be subject to state registration in compliance with the NCO law. Public associations shall be subject to state registration in compliance with the Law on Public Associations. The registration process for all types of NCOs is overly bureaucratic, with a long list of documents required to be submitted to the authorized governmental body. The same is true for foreign NCOs seeking to establish a branch office.

 

Barriers to Operational Activity

Non-commercial organizations, as a rule, have virtually no restrictions on the activities they may pursue as their primary objectives  including mutual benefit activities (Article 6(1), NCO Law, and Articles 5, 8, Law on Public Associations).

All foundations are required to engage in public benefit activities (Article 118(1), Civil CodeArticle 7(1), NCO Law, and Article 10, Law on Public Associations).  The primary activities of institutions are broadly defined as any managerial, socio-cultural or other activities of a not-for-profit nature (Article 120, Civil Code, Article 9, NCO Law, and Article 11, Law on Public Associations).  Charities are required to promote at least one of the enumerated charitable activities indicated in the law (Article 2, Charities Law).  Certain restrictions apply to activities of certain specialized organizations, such as political organizations and labor unions.

Articles 29 and 38 of the Law on Public Associations (PAs) impose burdensome reporting requirements on PAs by requiring them to submit information about the funding and property they receive from foreign and international organizations and foreign persons to the registration authority. Article 32 of the NCO Law imposes reporting requirements for NCOs and requires NCOs to report on their use of funds and other assets received from both foreign and local sources. Repeated failure on the part of a PA or an NCO to provide the information required in a timely fashion is grounds for the registration authority to bring a claim in court requesting a ruling that the organization terminate its activities as a legal entity, which then leads to its exclusion from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities. More recently, new electronic reporting forms for NCOs, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, have substantially simplified the reporting process.

Articles 29 and 38 of the Law on PAs and Article 32 of the NCO Law authorize governmental registration authorities to engage in highly intrusive means of scrutiny of public associations and NCOs without appropriate procedural protections.   The registration authority may use the following tools to interfere in the internal operations of a PA or NCO:

  • The power to summon resolutions of the organization’s governing body.  The registration authority has the ability to demand documents dealing with the details of an organization’s governance, including day-to-day policy decisions, supervision of the organization’s management, and oversight of its finances.
  • The power to send representatives to an organization’s events.  The Law allows the government to send a representative to all of an organization’s events, without restriction, including internal strategy sessions and grant selection meetings, for example.
  • The power to review the extent to which an organization’s activities comply with its statutory goals, including review of its expenditures and property management.  The registration authority has authority to review the compliance of organizations with their goals – even though the registration authority itself lacks expertise needed to judge whether particular activities are designed to meet an organization’s goals.
  • The power to conduct scheduled or unscheduled state audits. Amendments to the NCO Law adopted on February 21, 2014 expanded the list of reasons for unscheduled audits of NCOs. An NCO now may be audited if it fails to eliminate a violation identified in a written notification within the required time, if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) issues an order to conduct an audit, or if a government body files an application indicating that an NCO violated the law or engaged in terrorism or extremism.

The Federal Law on Changes to Article 32 of the NCO Law from June 4, 2014 went into effect on June 6, 2014. This law added new powers to the governmental bodies:

  • If the state body authorized to conduct audits [MoJ] receives information from another state body, a citizen, or an organization that suggests an NCO is engaging in activity that would qualify it as a foreign agent but is not registered as such, the state body may conduct an unscheduled audit of that NCO.
  • If MoJ determines that an NCO is functioning as a foreign agent, but is not on the registry of foreign agents, MoJ may unilaterally place the NCO on the registry. MoJ will interpret the law and make decisions about who is a foreign agent at its own discretion. NCOs may appeal MoJ’s decision in court.

Article 23 of the NCO Law also provides the registration authority with two additional intrusive supervisory powers over the branches, representative offices, and affiliates of foreign NCOs. The government can issue a written decision banning the implementation of any existing program of a branch office of a foreign NCO.  The Law does not provide any guidance with respect to the grounds on which the government may make this decision, which appear to be entirely discretionary.  Upon receipt of a decision, the office of the foreign NCO must terminate the activity, and if it fails to do so, it risks exclusion from the register and liquidation of the office.  The Law also allows the registration authority to issue a written decision banning the transfer by an foreign NCO’s branch, representative office, or affiliate of funds or other resources to particular recipients for the purposes of protecting the basis of the Constitutional system, morality, health, rights and lawful interests of other persons, and with the aim of defending the country and the state security. The Law does provide foreign NCOs the right to appeal against actions taken against them by the government.

According to Federal Law of May 2, 2015 No.117, the Ministry of Justice may now draw up reports on the administrative offenses of the activities of not-for-profit organizations, including the structural units of international organizations and foreign non-profit organizations, public associations, political parties, and religious organizations. This law expanded the Ministry of Justice’s authority to penalize managers of representative offices and branches of foreign NCOs for violating provisions of the NCO law.

Changes to the NCO Law and to the Law on Public Associations in 2014, which relate to NCOs performing functions of “foreign agents,” further increase the administrative burden on NCOs by requiring NCOs designated as “foreign agents” to: 1) maintain separate accounting of funds and other property generated through local and foreign sources; 2) submit activity reports on a biannual basis; and 3) submit reports on expenditures of funds and other property on a quarterly basis (unlike other Russian NCOs which are required to submit activities and expenditures reports annually). NCOs that are foreign agents are also required to pass through an annual independent audit. Reporting forms are to be determined by the authorized government agency and could be burdensome if overly complex. In addition, the Law gives to the government invasive powers to interfere in the internal operations of an NCO and even to suspend their activities. These include that:

  • The government will conduct scheduled and unscheduled audits of NCOs-foreign agents annually and will have additional the grounds to conduct additional audits of activities of NCOs.
  • The authorized government agency (which we expect will be Rosfinmonitoring) will review an NCO’s activities and expenditures reports and may require submission of additional information if a NCO receives a transfer above the 100,000 ruble threshold (approximately $1500) (Item 1.6 article 6 of Federal Law of August 7, 2001 No. 115-FZ on Counteracting Legalization (Money Laundering) of Incomes Received by Criminal Means and of Financing Terrorism amended by Federal Law of May 5, 2014 No.110-FZ). (Article 32.3, NCO Law)

Under the NCO Law, foreign organizations operating in Russia through registered offices are subject to the following new requirements:

  • They must undergo an annual independent audit by a Russian auditing company and submit the resulting audit report to an authorized government agency (MoJ);
  • The authorized government agency will post all such reports as well as reports on the finances and activities of foreign organizations operating in Russia on its website and provide them to the media;
  • In addition to the mandatory independent audit, the authorized government agency will also have the authority to conduct its own audits of the registered offices of foreign organizations.

According to the 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, there is 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 (FA).

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Neither the Civil Code nor the NCO Law limits the ability of NCOs to engage in advocacy or political activities.  All forms of public associations may participate in advocacy and lobbying activities.  Under the law, NCOs generally may also engage in election campaigns for federal and local elections, subject to federal election laws (Article 27, Law on Public Associations).

Recent amendments to the NCO Law, relating to NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent, may potentially restrict political activities of NCOs. According to these amendments NCOs carrying political activities and receiving foreign funding, or, even intending to do so, are required to register in a special registry, maintained by the Ministry of Justice.  Such registration, and, especially, labeling as “foreign agent” may result in additional administrative burdens for NCOs, as well as in damaging reputation of NCOs ( i“foreign agent” in Russian translation is perceived by general public as a “foreign spy).  The threat of being labeled a “foreign agent” may discourage many organizations to carry political activities.

An NCO is considered to carry out political activity, if, regardless of its statutory goals and purposes, it participates (including through financing) in organizing and implementing political actions aimed at influencing the decision-making by state bodies intended for the change of state policy pursued by them, as well as in the shaping of public opinion for the aforementioned purposes. Such activities are considered political, regardless of whether a NCO is conducting them in the interest of foreign funding sources or without such purpose.  A NCO carries political activities for the purpose of the Law if such activity takes place on the territory of the Russian Federation.  (Article 2, NCO Law). An  NCO is considered to be carrying out political activity if it even participates in such activities organized and financed for by other organizations.

Charities are expressly prohibited from using their assets to support political parties, movements, and campaigns (Article 2(2), Charities Law). In addition, religious organizations, governmental and municipal institutions, international public associations, and international movements are prohibited from making donations to candidates (Article 58 (6), Federal Law No. 19-FZ “On RF President elections,” January 10, 2003, and Article 66 (7), Federal Law No. 175-FZ “On RF State Duma deputies elections,” July 20, 2002, as amended). However, these prohibitions do not appear to extend to involvement in lobbying or other politically-related activities.

In June 2012, increases to existing fines for violating rules on participation in and organization of public protests were enacted when President Putin signed into law amendments to Code of the Russian Federation on administrative violations and to the Federal Law “On Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing on June 8. These fines have a deterrent effect on the right to peaceful assembly. Fines for breaching provisions on holding public assemblies were increased by 150 times for individuals and 300 times for organizations. The new maximum penalty for participation in a protest that is not in accordance with government regulations is up to 300,000 rubles (approximately $5,000) for individuals and up to one million rubles (approximately $16,500) for organizations.

In July 2012, defamation was reintroduced as a criminal offence in Russia. The law was likely enacted to inhibit media criticism of Russia’s leaders since media outlets can be fined up to two million rubles (approximately $33,000) for producing defamatory public statements.

Also in July 2012, changes introduced to the Law on Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development mandated the creation of a registry of websites that contain information which has been prohibited by a court order. Once a website is placed on this registry it can then be shut down without a court order. Government officials can interpret the law in a way that would increase Internet censorship and curb the freedom of expression of organizations that hold views that are different from the government’s or the majority’s views.

In addition, four federal laws forming what is commonly known as the “Klishas Package” (also called “Fake News” law and a law on “Insulting the Authorities”) were adopted on March 18, 2019 and introduce, in particular, administrative responsibility for disseminating in the media or on information and telecommunication networks deliberately unreliable, socially important information under the guise of reliable messages that create 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). Another law of the “Klishas Package” 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. The penalty is a fine in the amount of 30,000-100,000 rubles. The vagueness of the wordings creates risks of arbitrary application of administrative norms in practice.

Barriers to International Contact

The Amendments to the Criminal Code define some criminal offenses in such a way that NCOs interacting with foreign organizations will be especially vulnerable to criminal penalties for such offenses. Specifically, “State treason” 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.”

From June 3, 2015, when Federal Law No. 129-FZ on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (Law on “Undesirable Organizations”) came into force, new administrative and criminal penalties applied to entities in violation of the Law. The administrative penalties apply if an “undesirable organization” implements its activities (Article 20.33), or if other entities participate in such activities in the territory of the Russian Federation. With regard to other entities, penalties apply if they violate restrictions established under “Anti-Magnitsky Law”. The administrative penalty for citizens is five to fifteen thousand rubles (currently $100-$300); for officials, twenty thousand to fifty thousand rubles (approximately $1,000); and for legal entities, fifty thousand to one hundred thousand rubles (approximately $2,000). After the entity has been charged with penalties for administrative offense twice in one year, it can be charged with criminal penalties. Criminal penalties can include: a fine from three hundred thousand to five hundred thousand rubles ($6,000-$10,000) or in the amount of the salary or other income of the offender for a period from two to three years; compulsory work for up to three hundred and sixty hours; forced labor for up to five years with or without restriction of liberty for up to two years; deprivation of liberty from two to six years with or without deprivation of the right to occupy certain positions or engage in certain activities for up to ten years. A person who has voluntarily terminated his or her participation in the activity of the undesirable organization shall be exempted from criminal liability, unless his or her actions contain a different corpus delicti.

In addition to the Law on Undesirable Organizations, Federal Law of March 28, 2017 No. 35-FZ on Amendments to Part 3 of Article 3.1 of 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. This law completes the list of prohibited activities for international and foreign CSOs, whose activities in Russia were recognized as “undesirable”, by adding a new activity: “5) a ban on the creation of the territory of the Russian Federation of legal entities or participation in them.” Russian officials consider the adoption of this law as a successful attempt to close all loopholes for “undesirable” organizations to threaten the Constitution, defense or security of Russia.

 

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

Russia enacted the law 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 in November 2012. According to these amendments, NCOs carrying out “political activities” and receiving foreign funding, or, even intending to do so, are required to register in a special registry maintained by the Ministry of Justice.  Such registration, and, especially, being labeled as a “foreign agent” may result in additional administrative burdens for NCOs, as well as in damaging the reputation of NCOs. The threat of being labeled a “foreign agent” discouraged many organizations from seeking foreign funding.

Initially, it was nearly impossible for an NCO to engage a legal process to remove itself from the “foreign agents” registry. However, on March 8, 2015, Federal Law No. 43-FZ specified the grounds and procedure for exclusion from the register of NCOs Carrying Out Functions of a Foreign Agent (FA Registry). Upon receipt of an application for exclusion from the registry, the Ministry of Justice would be able to conduct an audit of activities of an NCO applicant and notify the Prosecutor’s Office about such an application. An NCO would be excluded from the registry if it met the following conditions: 1) if an NCO terminated its activity in case of liquidation, reorganization or exclusion from the Unified Register of Legal Entities; 2) if an unplanned inspection identifies the lack of foreign funding for a year before the submission of application and/or did not conduct political activities; 3) if an unplanned audit of the NCO which had been earlier excluded from FA Registry identifies the lack of foreign funding and/or political activities during three years before the submission of application; 4) if an unplanned audit demonstrates that NCO included into FA Registry not later than in three months after the date of inclusion rejected the receipt of foreign funding and returned the money or other property to a foreign source from which they had been obtained. The Ministry of Justice would also be bound to make a decision on whether to exclude an NCO from the registry within three months after the date of receipt of the application.

Another formidable legal barrier against foreign funding relates to the giving of tax-exempt grants. 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. Such grants may be made only for purposes specified by Russian Tax Code: for the implementation of specific programs in the sphere of education, art, culture, health care (AIDS, drug addiction, children oncology, including oncohematology, children endocrinology, hepatitis, tuberculosis) environmental protection, protection of human and civil rights, social services of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of citizens, as well as for holding specific scientific research.

In June of 2008, the Russian Government adopted Decree #485, regarding the Government’s pre-approved list of foreign grantors (hereinafter referred to as the “List”).  Decree #485 contained a reduced number of approved international organizations and made clear that as of January 1, 2009, only international organizations mentioned in the Decree could remain on the List.  Grants from foreign organizations not included on the List are considered taxable income for Russian recipients, unless they otherwise qualify as donations under Russian law. (The current regulation is applicable only to grants; donations, including those from foreign organizations to non-commercial organizations are tax exempt.) On March 24, 2009, Prime Minister Putin signed Decree #252, amending Decree #485. Decree #485 empowered the Ministry of Finance to make changes and additions to the List. Decree #252 instead authorizes interested ministries – and not solely the Ministry of Finance – to initiate changes and additions to the List. In addition, NCOs must provide information regarding donations obtained from foreign organizations to the Ministry of Justice.

Domestic Funding

An NCO may engage in economic activities to the extent they advance the purposes for which the organization was created, but may not pursue the generation of profit as its primary purpose (Article 50(3), Civil CodeArticles 2 and 24(2), NCO LawArticle 37, Law on Public Associations, and Article 12, Charities Law).  Profit from the economic activities of NCOs, including charities, is generally taxed in the same manner as for commercial organizations.  Lower tax rates may be offered by regional or local authorities for qualifying NCOs.  Registration as a charity does not affect or limit the right of an NCO to engage in economic activities (Article 12, Charities Law).

In July 2011, the Russian Parliament adopted amendments to the Russian Tax Code that substantially improve the taxation of NCOs. For example, NCOs no longer have to pay profit tax or value added tax (VAT) on the value of in-kind contributions (services or property rights) they receive. Moreover, the amendments extend VAT exemptions previously applied to state budget funded institutions providing social services (i.e. in the areas of culture, art, health care, education, and services to the needy) to NCOs providing the same services.

 

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees the freedom of assembly in Article 31: “Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets.”

Federal Law of June 19, 2004 #54-FZ “On meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” (hereinafter – FZ “On Meetings”) is the key law governing the freedom of assembly.  In addition, several other laws address specific kinds of assemblies, including Federal Law of May 18, 2005 #51-FZ “On election of deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation;” Federal Constitutional Law of June 28, 2004 #5-FKZ “On referendum of the Russian Federation;” and Federal law of January 10, 2003 #19-FZ “On elections of the President of the Russian Federation. The holding of religious rites and ceremonies is regulated by the Federal law of September 26, 1997 #125-FZ “On freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations.”

Limitations on Eligible Organizers
Russian law allows only citizens of the Russian Federation to act as event organizers; foreigners and non-citizens do not have the right to organize assemblies. In addition, the law prohibits the following from serving as organizers: persons recognized as incapable or partially incapable by a court and persons in a place of confinement after being convicted by the court; persons who have not been expunged of committing a crime against the foundations of the constitutional system, national security or public security and safety, or who have more than twice received administrative penalties; and political parties, other public or religious associations, their regional branches or other subdivisions.

Advance Notification
Organizers of a public event must file advance notification with the government. The notification must contain the organizers’ full names, addresses and phone numbers; those persons authorized by the organizer to perform regulatory functions while holding the public event; the goal and form, date, start and finish times, and the route of movement (including information about vehicles); the projected number of participants; the methods planned for ensuring public peace; the need for medical assistance; and whether or not loudspeakers will be used.

Written notification for a public event must be submitted by the organizers no sooner than 15 days and no later than 10 days before holding the event to an executive body of the territorial subdivision of the Russian Federation, or to a local self-governance body. The law provides for two exceptions: first, when holding a picket by a group of persons the notification must be submitted no less than 3 days before the event; and, second, notification of a picket held by one participant is not required.

The executive body or the self-governance body is not obligated to reply to any notification; it is only obligated to confirm the date, time and receipt of the notification. However, if the body requests that the organizer change the place or time of the event, then the body must communicate this information to the organizers within three days from the date of receiving the notification. The organizer must inform the executive body or the local self-governance body whether the organizer accepts the offer to change the place or time of the event no less than three days before the event date. A refusal of the offer to change the place or time of the event is illegal, however, thus rendering the opportunity for appeal useless.

Since October 22, 2018, according to Federal Law No. 367-FZ of October 11, 2018, 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 the denial of a rental for a premise one hour before a meeting. From 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.

Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions
Public events can be held in any location suitable for the purposes of the event as long as the location does not pose a threat to buildings or structures or other threats to the safety of the participants. However, locations where holding a public event are forbidden include: territories adjacent to hazardous production facilities; elevated roads, long distance railway lines and oil, gas and product pipelines; territories adjacent to residences of the President of the Russian Federation, courts, and correctional institutions; and borderlands, unless a special permit from the authorized border control body is obtained. Restrictions tend to be lightened when protestors challenge policy without questioning the authority or legitimacy of the government, such as truckers who protested taxes on their vehicles by blocking the highways in late 2015 and early 2016.

When several notifications are received for different public events and different organizers in the same location the order of holding such events is determined based on the time of submission of said notifications. Therefore, it would seem that counter-demonstrations can be held in sequence, but not simultaneously in the same place.

Responsibilities of Organizers and Participants
Russian law holds organizers and participants responsible for actions that lead to the “creation of impediments to pedestrian traffic,” the “involvement of additional police personnel and equipment,” or that “exceed the norms of occupancy of a territory.” In case of failure to satisfy obligations provided by the law, the organizer of a public event also bears civil liability for harm caused by event participants.

Federal Law No. 557-FZ of December 27, 2018 on Amending Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, which entered into force on January 8, 2019, established administrative liability for involving minors in unauthorized public events.

Enforcement
Law enforcement authorities have used excessive force to disband peaceful demonstrations. In July 2016, a new law enforcement structure – the National Guard – was created with the authority to suppress any mass action per Federal Law No. 227-FZ of July 3, 2016.

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

First criminal case opened against a foreign agent because of COVID-19 fake news (April 2020) (Russian)
The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against a foreign agent – the organization “Rus Sidiyschaya” – for publishing inaccurate material about the coronavirus. According to investigators, on April 9, the organization posted on its website a message stating that 30 prisoners in a colony in the village of Toporok in the Novgorod Region allegedly became infected with the coronavirus.

Russian Lawmakers Expand Scope of ‘Undesirable’ Groups (October 2018)
Russian State Duma lawmakersdrafted new legislation that would expand the federal government’s ability to ban foreign nongovernmental organizations accused of meddling in Russian elections. The legislation builds on a series of Russian laws that in 2012 began targeting “undesirable” activities, mainly by foreign advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations and news media outlets.

Russia bans two foreign election-monitoring groups (March 2018)
The Russian government has banned another two “undesirable organizations”: the election-monitoring groups the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and the International Elections Study Center (IESC).

Russia warns of additional penalties for US media (January 2018)
Russia’s government is threatening additional penalties against U.S. media operating in Russia. The threat is the latest in a back and forth dispute between Washington and Moscow over the treatment of media outlets operating in each other’s countries.

Duma passes first reading of bill designating individuals as foreign agent media (January 2018)
Russia’s State Duma has passed the first reading ofa bill which demands that foreign agent media outlets set up Russian legal entities and makes it possible to designate individuals as foreign agent media.

Russia gives early approval to new bill on foreign media (January 2018)
Russia’s parliament has given preliminary approval to a bill that could oblige some journalists to register as foreign agents. The bill that passed the first reading at the State Duma allows the government to designate individuals who are “performing the function of a media outlet” as foreign agents. The legislation is the latest tit-for-tat between Russia and the U.S. over government-funded media outlets. The media dispute began in November when Kremlin-funded RT television was registered with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent following a demand from Washington. In retaliation, Russia adopted a bill that allows the government to designate international media outlets as foreign agents.

Independent Think Tank Faces Charges (September 2017)
A prominent Russian think tank, the SOVA Center, and its director are facing charges for violating the country’s draconian Law on Undesirable Organizations, Human Rights Watch said. SOVA Center is known for its research on nationalism, religious freedoms, and political radicalism, and has been monitoring the Russian authorities’ abuse of vague and overly broad anti-extremism legislation. “The outrageous charges against SOVA Center offer a stark example of how the Russian government is using the Law on Undesirable Organizations to squeeze the life out of civil society and stifle free expression,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Russia to Strike Eight Organizations Off ‘Foreign Agents’ Register (May 2017)
Eight entities are poised to be removed from Russia’s list of NGOs after it is confirmed they have been without foreign funding for over a year. “Fifteen organizations have been removed and eight are on their way,” Andrei Babushkin, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, a consultative body, said.

Russian government says foreign agent nonprofits are getting millions (May 2017)
Russia’s Justice Ministry reported that nonprofit civil society groups in the country received more than a billion dollars in funding from abroad in 2016, but said the number of those it tarred as foreign agents last year fell by almost half. Because the ministry didn’t specify who received those funds, its assertion is impossible to verify. But the numbers mirror those floated by Vladimir Putin in 2013 when he told a national television audience that foreign funded NGOs were receiving more than $300,000 a month from abroad, and used that outrageous figure to justify a crushing crackdown.

Russian Lawmakers Target Anticorruption Group Transparency International (May 2017)
Transparency International is coming under renewed pressure in Russia, where senior lawmakers are calling for the global anticorruption watchdog’s local affiliate to be investigated — or even banned altogether — for allegedly threatening a member of parliament. The escalating standoff between the officials and Transparency International Russia follows anticorruption protests across Russia in March that resulted in scores of arrests, and comes amid a push by Kremlin critics to make graft a central issue in next year’s presidential election.

Violations and state restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of publication, freedom of artistic creativity (May 2017)
In recent years, the Russian government has introduced various kinds of restrictions in the field of freedom of speech and self expression. Repressive laws have been adopted, allowing punishment up to imprisonment for creativity and expression of opinions. The uncertainty of wording in such laws, in particular concerning extremism, allows for extensive interpretation in courts, which leads to considerable increase in persecutions of journalists, bloggers, independent media, and authors. Censorship embraces more and more spheres. Various manifestations of dissent, and creative search of artists who do not fit into the ideological mainstream or just express critique, are becoming targetsfor hurray-patriots and hooligans. The lack of official reaction to these attacks, as well as the obvious violations of the rights of journalists and artists, including threats and violence, instigate a dangerous atmosphere of tolerance towards censorship and abuse in the society, and form the environment of impunity.

Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia NGO put on “undesirable organizations” list (April 2017)
The Justice Ministry has added several foreign NGOs including Open Russia, founded by former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to the list of “undesirable organizations”, according to the statement published on the ministry’s website on Thursday. The decision was made upon the request of Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office. On Wednesday, the Prosecutor General’s Office recognized Open Russia NGO, Open Russia Civic Movement based in the United Kingdom and the Institute of Modern Russia (IMR) located in the U.S., as “undesirable organizations”.

Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses, Calling It an Extremist Group (April 2017)
Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants. The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.

Russia protests: Kremlin condemns ‘provocation’ (March 2017)
The Kremlin has responded to mass protests by accusing the opposition of encouraging lawbreaking and provoking violence. Some young people were paid to attend, a presidential spokesman said. But defiant opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of hundreds of people held, was fined the minimum 20,000 roubles (£280; $350) and was not detained when he appeared in court. He repeated accusations of corruption against PM Dmitry Medvedev. The allegations were the main reason behind Sunday’s protests, which drew thousands of demonstrators nationwide, including in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, as well as Moscow. At least 500 protesters were detained.

Russia Bans More International Organizations (August 2016)
Russia further undermined its civil society last week when the country’s prosecutor general ordered nongovernmental organizations International Republican Institute (IRI) and Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) can no longer work or have a presence in Russia. These two international organizations were among a list of 12 groups that Russian senators allege “harm” the country. They were closed under a law, passed by parliament, which allows executive authorities to designate as “undesirable” any foreign or international organization they deem undermines “the defense capacity and security of the state or public order, public moral or public health.” There is no judicial review or appeal against the designation.

Russia moves toward alarming new counter-terrorism law (June 2016)
The lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed so-called anti-terrorism legislation that would allow steep prison sentences for dissent, and require ISPs and phone companies to store huge amounts of communications for long periods of time. The “Yarovaya law” would also make it a crime not to report information about terrorist attacks and other crimes, require telecoms to assist the government to break into encrypted messages, and increase the strongest penalty for “extremism” from four to eight years of imprisonment. Even this bill is softer than a previous version which would have allowed the government to strip Russians of citizenship.

Russia’s Bad Example (March 2016)
This month Russia’s legislative body, the Duma, introduced a draft law that would further strangle the work of Russian NGOs. The Duma wants to broaden the definition of “political activity” that can cause an NGO to be deemed a “foreign agent” to include receiving funds or property from almost any source, making it easier for the government to shut them down. This puts nearly every local organization in the country at risk because it essentially requires any NGO to consider itself, and present itself, as a spy organization. It must label all of its publications and web pages with an emblem indicating it is a “foreign agent,” announce this fact at events, and subject itself to additional audits of its activity and funding streams. This is just the latest brick in a wall of strategies preventing local organizations from challenging the government.

Targeting of NGOs Ensnares Journalist Associations (October 2015)
There are currently eight organisations advocating for media freedom and journalists’ rights included on a black list of 86 NGOs. Among them are organisations fighting for access to information (Freedom of Information Foundation), providing legal support to journalists (Rights of the Media Defence Centre and Media Support Foundation (Sreda)), organising education for regional reporters (Press Development Institute – Sibir in Novosibirsk and Regional Press Institute), an information agency (Memo.ru) and others. Some of the media freedom organisations are in the process of shutting down, including Sreda and Freedom of Information Foundation, while others, such as the Regional Press Institute (RPI) in St Petersburg, continue their activities but are forced to pay large fines.

A Cloud over Russian Civil Society (March 2015)
In December 2014, the Ministry of Justice, acting on an anonymous denunciation, carried out an unscheduled inspection of the Sakharov Center, one of the oldest and most respected nongovernmental organizations in Russia. Along with 16 other independent NGOs, the center was required to register as a “foreign agent” under a law passed in 2012. Some NGOs have decided to shut down rather than admit to or challenge this designation, which in Russian carries clear connotations of “spy” and “traitor.” The Sakharov Center is contesting its designation as a foreign agent and, in the meantime, faces heavy fines that could endanger its survival.

“Memorial” and other groups forced to register under “foreign agents” Law (November 2014)
NCOs designated as “foreign agents” may be stuck with the label permanently after the Justice Ministry said it had no plans to amend the law and write up a procedure for removing the tag. Even if NCOs stop receiving the funding from abroad that caused their initial registration as a “foreign agent,” there is no existing procedure for removing the label, nor are there plans to introduce one, the ministry said in a statement. “Currently, the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation is not developing any bill that would envisage a mechanism for striking NCOs from the registry of organizations that fulfill the functions of a foreign agent,” the ministry was quoted as saying. The statement followed an unsuccessful appeal earlier this week by the St. Petersburg branch of Soldiers’ Mothers to remove its “foreign agent” label.

“Memorial” and four other groups forced to register under “foreign agents” Law
(July 2014)
On 21 July, the Russian Ministry of Justice registered five more organisations, including Memorial Human Rights Centre, as “foreign agents” under controversial legislation aimed at suppressing civil society. Although these organisations to date had strongly lobbied against the registration through the courts, a recent amendment gives the Ministry of Justice the power to unilaterally register an organisation as a “foreign agent” without sanctioning from the Court. The Ministry of Justice also decided to unilaterally register Human Rights Association “AGORA” (Tatarstan); “Ecodefence – Women’s Council” NGO (Kaliningrad); Fund for Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens “Public Verdict” (Moscow); “Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms” NGO (Moscow).

News archive

Russia Quietly Tightens Reins on Internet With a ‘Bloggers Law (May 2014)

Law on ‘foreign NGOs an agents’ does not contradict Russian Constitution (April 2014)

First Ruling on Civil Suit Under ‘Foreign Agents’ Law (December 2013)

Russian General Prosecutor, Yury Chaika, Speaks on NGO inspections in St. Petersburg (July 2013)

Russian court fines NGO $13,000 under ‘foreign agent’ law (May 2013)

Kremlin Promises Information on $1B in NGO Funding (April 2013)

Leading Russian Human Rights NGOs launch challenge at European Court to ‘Foreign Agent’ Law (February 2013)

Freedom House Condemns New Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly in Moscow (January 2013)

Russia criticizes EU on human rights ahead of summit (December 2012)

Medvedev convinced civil society developing in Russia (December 2012)

USAID exit hurts Russian election watchdog (December 2012)

Internet restriction law comes into force (November 2012)

Russia’s ‘Foreign Agents’ law hit by paperwork pile-up (November 2012)

New EU Rights envoy promises to raise issues with Russia, Kazakhstan (November 2012)

Russia warns U.S. over human rights bill (November 2012)

Russia: leading NGO set to close due to funds shortfall (November 2012)

Merkel Questions Russia’s Human Rights Record (November 2012)

Transparency International refuses to comply with NCO law (November 2012)

Putin suggests some flexibility on anti-dissent laws (November 2012)

Another law in blatant violation of basic international human rights standards (October 2012)

Russia’s upper house approves law on fines for foreign agents (October 2012)

Russia’s NGO Law will inevitably result in a contraction of space and opportunity for NGOs (October 2012)

Rights group says its researcher in Moscow is threatened (October 2012)

Russia’s troublesome “traditional values” resolution (October 2012)

USAID shutdown in Russia will hurt civil society (September 2012)

Kremlin evicts USAID from Russia in blow to ‘reset’ (September 2012)

Russia demands USAID halt work (September 2012)

European Parliament concerned over worsening civil society climate in Russia (September 2012)

Russian regional administration forbids employees contact with ‘foreign agents’ as new NGO law gains traction (September 2012)

Human-rights organizations to boycott new law on NGOs (September 2012)

Russian rights groups taking ‘multi-step’ approach against NGO law (September 2012)

Beyond text, few parallels between new Russian and existing U.S. CSO laws (August 2012)

Clinton affirms Russian human rights activists are not U.S. agents (August 2012)

“A kind of Soviet flavor”: Putin taking lessons from Lukashenko? (August 2012)

Assembling to promote a positive attitude proscribed (August 2012)

Two years in prison for Pussy Riot (August 2012)

Russia needs Human Rights Ombudsmen in every region – Putin (August 2012)

Russia’s law on volunteering can be adopted in autumn (August 2012)

NGO law affects Russia’s civil society (August 2012)

Blogger and leader of protest movement Aleksei Navalny charged with embezzlement after labeling an official a “foreign agent” (August 2012)

New amendments on volunteering to be developed (July 2012)

Details of “Foreign Agents” Law (July 2012)

“Foreign Agents” Law modeled after US law, says Putin (July 2012)

Russians Support Recent Laws Restricting Freedoms – Poll (July 2012)

Russian rights activists refuse to comply with NGO law (July 2012)

Drive to give legal status to volunteers (July 2012)

The Internet law: A good bad example of Russia’s backsliding (July 2012)

Russian parliament approves restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs (July 2012)

Secretary of State Clinton discusses “disturbing” Russian NGO Law in CoD Governing Council remarks (July 2012)

EU High Representative “highly concerned” about amendments to Russia’s NGO law (July 2012)

PACE Rapporteur Slams Russian Slander Bill As ‘Invitation to Punish’ Kremlin Critics (July 2012)

Russia’s Ruling Party Seeks ‘Foreign Agent’ Media Bill (July 2012)

UN human rights experts warn of potential damage by Russia’s draft law to civil society (July 2012)

Parties Ask Russian Constitutional Court To Review Demonstrations Law (July 2012)

Looking for Foreign Agents in All the Wrong Places (July 2012)

NGO laws indicate Putin’s strategic failure, political frailty (July 2012)

Russia’s Internet blacklist looms in freedom crackdown (July 2012)

Transparency International calls on Russia to reject draconian amendments to laws governing NGOs (July 2012)

Putin signs draconian law restricting freedom of assembly (June 2012)

New Russian bill aims to brand NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ (June 2012)

Parliament to label externally-funded NGOs as foreign agents (June 2012)

Law on rallies awaits Putin’s signature (June 2012)

Putin signs law with new restrictions on peaceful assembly (June 2012)

Russian President Putin defends Russia’s human rights record after EU meeting (June 2012)

Russia’s civil society ‘beats authorities’ in tackling corruption (May 2012)

Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor meets civil society advocates from Russia (April 2012)

Freedom of speech concerns arise as protest singers face seven-year jail sentences (April 2012)

Nonviolent protests in Russia: About the elections or also for the future? (March 2012)

International NGOs urge authorities of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia to take measures to protect journalists (January 2012)

Why Russia’s democrats need West’s support (October 2011)

Government to increase support for NGOs – Medvedev (September 2011)

Arkhangelsk NGOs adapting to Russian reality (September 2011)

Russian court makes foreign donations to NGOs tax free (September 2011)

The Rebirth of Russian Civil Society (July 2011)

Medvedev urges development of endowment funds (June 2011)

Putin’s Russia could face revolt – whistleblower (June 2011)

European Court Rebukes Law on Parties (April 2011)

U.N. says Russian efforts on human rights fall short (February 2011)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor partner organization in Russia.