EcodefenseOn June 16, 2014 the Russian environmental NGO Ecodefense received an inspection report of the Ministry of Justice declaring the organization a „Foreign Agent„.1 The decision was based on Ecodefense’s successful campaigning against Baltic NPP near Kaliningrad which had been started in 20076. 2013 the construction work on site had been frozen and continuation is unclear after intensive campaigns against the new nuclear power plant. To be declared a „Foreign Agent“ means de facto the closure of an organization. Ecodefense interpreted the declaration a revenge for the successful activities against Baltic NPP and believes the Russian atomic energy giant Rosatom was involved to it.5

A previous inspection by the Russian authorities in spring 20132 didn‘t find any indices for considering Ecodefense a „Foreign Agent“5. It seems that the 2014 inspection first came to the same result but under pressure from Moscow was changed to the final statement Ecodefense indeed would act as a „Foreign Agent“.

However, the Ministry of Justice didn‘t add Ecodefense to the „foreign agent“ register yet – the reason for this is still unclear even for the representatives of the environmental organization. It might be the ministry first wants to wait for the result of the trial, that they started against Ecodefense to additionally let them pay a fine for not registering themselves as „foreign agents“. The papers for this court procedure was handed in by the ministry to the court already. Besides the stigmatization as foreign spy Ecodefense then would also have to face demands for a fine of several thousands of euros.5

In response to the declaration as „foreign agent“ the organization received dozens of solidarity statements from all over the world.5

By definition, „Foreign Agents“ are registered Russian nongovernmental organizations (NGO) undertaking political activities with foreign support. This weak definition of the law practically could allow to declare many critical NGOs „Foreign Agents“. The law had been criticized by Russian human rights organizations already since 2012, when it was introduced. Ecodefense was one of the 11 NGOs filing a complaint against the law to the European Court of Human Rights in early 20133.6

Ecodefense was not only actively campaigning against the Baltic NPP, but also involved to the successful campaign in cooperation with German anti-nuclear groups finally stopping the uranium waste transports from the German uranium enrichment facility in Gronau to Russia4. Representatives of Ecodefense were also guests at the protest against several Castor transports to Gorleben. It is an important Russian partner organization for many anti-nuclear groups in Germany.

Ecodefense will appeal the „Foreign Agent“ stigmatization in court. However, if the decision will be confirmed in court, it would mean the closure of the NGO. With the label of a spy acting for foreign interests it is practically impossible for organizations in Russia to work in public. And other NGOs cooperating with them in any way would face the risk to be declared a „Foreign Agent“, too. Ecodefense is not willing to give up and will fight for their rights in the courts as long as possible3.

More information

* Ecodefense media release on the declaration as „Foreign Agent“
* Der „Russische Frühling”: Eine Politik der Angst – besonders gegen Oppositionelle

Footnotes

  1. http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/russland-ecodefense-in-schwierigkeiten.697.de.html?dram:article_id=289464 as of June 24, 2014 [back]
  2. http://www.linksnet.de/de/artikel/31300 as of June 24, 2014 [back]
  3. http://www.nuclear-heritage.net/index.php/Update_on_repression_against_environmental_groups_in_Russia as of June 24, 2014 [back]
  4. http://www.kerstinrudek.de/verbundenheit/ as of June 24, 2014 [back]
  5. http://bellona.org/news/russian-human-rights-issues/russian-ngo-law/2014-07-foreign-agent-wants-slap-label-ecodefense-resisting-matters as of July 7, 2014 [back]
  6. http://bellona.org/news/russian-human-rights-issues/russian-ngo-law/2014-07-breaking-russian-authorities-officially-brand-four-leading-human-rights-organizations-ecodefense-foreign-agents-ahead-court-decisions as of August 2, 2014 [back]