Russia bans ‘undesirable’ US-funded foundation

MOSCOW: Russian prosecutors on Friday declared a US government-funded foundation an “undesirable” organisation, the fourth entity to be banned under a controversial law targeting foreign groups accused of political meddling in the country.


The US Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law (USRF), which promotes private sector development and institution building in Russia will be banned as its activities “present a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional system and state security,” Russia’s Prosecutor General said in a statement.

The Prosecutor “has decided to declare as undesirable” its activities and banned its president, US citizen Mark Pomar, from entering Russia until 2025, the statement added.

The decision now needs to be rubber-stamped by the justice ministry, which keeps a register of “undesirable” groups.

Prosecutors accused USRF which has had an office in Russia since 2009 of financing local NGOs that “participate in political processes”, branded “foreign agents” by the Russian justice ministry.

In 2006 President Vladimir Putin and his then American counterpart, George W Bush, announced their intention to establish USRF to promote economic development and strengthen bilateral ties, according to the organisation’s website.

USRF could not be reached for comment on Friday morning. Critics of the law on “undesirable” organisations under which Russian activists who cooperate with these groups can face fines and prison time say it strips local NGOs of crucial funding they could not receive from domestic donors.

On Monday, New York-based foundations run by financier George Soros the Open Society Foundation and its Assistance Fund were slapped with the “undesirable” label and banned from the country.

In an email this week, Russia’s prominent Civic Assistance Committee which campaigns for rights of refugees and migrant workers, said the decision on the Soros foundations left its migrant worker aid programme without funds.

“Thanks to the government we are once again severely limited while our wards are left without help,” it said. Russia has upped pressure on local NGOs since Putin’s re-election in 2012, including with a law allowing authorities to brand groups engaging in broadly-defined “political activity” and that receive funding from abroad as “foreign agents”.

More than 100 groups, ranging from some of Russia’s leading rights groups to small regional organisations, have received the tag, reminiscent of the Soviet crackdown on dissidents.