VORONEZH, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Prosecutors in the central Russian Voronezh Region have started inspections of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as part of an anti-extremism drive, the regional prosecutor’s office has reported.
“The regional prosecutor’s office, in line with an assignment from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, is conducting a check aimed at establishing whether public and religious associations and other NGOs comply with laws against extremism,” the office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nationwide NGO inspections have been taking place in Russia since March, and most observers had linked them to a new law that tightens control on NGOs and obliges those that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” Many NGO activists have complained of unexpected and time-consuming raids.
The NGOs targeted recently in particular included the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch, corruption watchdog Transparency International and the Kazan-based advocacy group Agora. Agora has provided legal support to many political activists.
Voronezh-based rights advocate Alexei Kozlov told RIA Novosti that four regional organizations are the targets of current new checks, adding that the reason for the inspections was that the organizations receive foreign funding.
The Prosecutor General's Office said March 28 that the recent series of spot checks on NGOs in Russia that caused outcry among rights advocates is aimed at establishing their compliance with laws against extremism and the legalization of criminal income.
Activists have condemned the inspections, which have targeted numerous high-profile rights groups, as a form of intimidation. According to Agora, over 80 organizations have been audited in 24 regions across Russia during the recent wave.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned March 28 against government officials overdoing the ongoing nationwide wave of spot checks on NGOs. Putin said the checks should be monitored by the presidential ombudsman for human rights, Vladimir Lukin, to ensure there were no “excesses.”