The Kremlin uses NGOs to achieve its goals both inside and outside Russia, according to a new report. Domestically, pro-Kremlin NGOs help shore up support for the government and suggest the presence of an active third sector. In the international realm, they are a key part of the Kremlin’s kleptocracy network, as they lure in foreign actors and fund local partners, says the Free Russia Foundation analysis, NGOs as a Tool for Russia’s Projection of Influence. Furthermore, pro-Kremlin NGOs manipulate open societies in order to promote the Kremlin’s views, stir divisions and distract international communities from more pressing issues:
Pro-Kremlin NGOs are active in Russia’s kleptocracy network, the report adds:
- They help fund regime insiders and recruit the support of outsiders. The well-known case of Azerbaijan’s corrupt ties to several European politicians in the Council of Europe shows how pseudo-NGOs can be used to organize events, pay for sham contracts, fund and attract supporters. Indeed, Russian authoritarian NGOs are engaged in similar activities.
- They help white-wash reputation and launder assets of the regime insiders in Europe and in
the U.S. Vladimir Yakunin’s attempts to establish himself as an enlightened philanthropist and
scholar central to the European discourse, is a perfect example.
- Pro-Kremlin NGOs employ key figures loyal to the Kremlin and their relatives, giving them
payroll, status, and influence inside and outside of the regime. This practice is also a form of
honorable retirement. The Martens Center and the Chatham House have documented multiple
former or current Russian dignitaries and members of the United Russia party who had been given management positions in the pro-Kremlin NGOs or seats on their trustee boards….
Regardless of their primary goals, pro-Kremlin NGOs take resources away from independent NGOs, marginalize discussions of human rights, and erode democratic norms, serving as a key tool for disseminating the Kremlin propaganda and disinformation, adds report author, Olga Shorina, a co-founder of Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom and a Free Russia Foundation fellow. RTWT