New move to suffocate Russia’s civil society


A new bill introduced in Russia’s parliament on November 18, 2020 is a potentially very dangerous addition to a growing body of oppressive “foreign agents” laws, Human Rights Watch said:

The bill drastically expands the scope of individuals and groups that can be designated “foreign agents,” introduces new restrictions and registration and reporting requirements, and obliges the media to note the designation whenever they mention these individuals or groups. The 2012 “foreign agents” law applied to organizations but was expanded in 2019 to certain individuals – journalists and bloggers. Now it could include almost anyone.

“In less than two weeks, two bills have entered the legislative pipeline that shamelessly encroach on the minuscule space left for civic activism in Russia,” said Hugh Williamson, the group’s Europe and Central Asia director. “For now, human rights defenders, environmentalists, and other activists can avoid the unwarranted and toxic ‘foreign agent label,’ by shutting their organizations and continuing their activism as individuals, but under this draft, they would have to end their work entirely, or assume for themselves the ‘foreign agent’ label that would isolate them from Russian society.”

Since the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy has largely continued to seek to attract allies through its leadership of an open and prospering democratic system, a strategy that Moscow increasingly views as a threat to its interests, particularly in its neighborhood, according to Ambassador Daniel Fried – a National Endowment for Democracy (NED) board member – and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. This approach has led Western leaders to engage with a stagnating kleptocracy that starts wars with its neighbors, violates human rights, and tramples on international norms.

In dealing with Russia “as it is,” it might be more constructive to base Western relations with Moscow on a vision of gradual progress toward a freer, more democratic Russia that can grow into a stable international actor, they write in How the West should deal with Russia.

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