Russian Bill Approved Expanding 'Undesirable' Organizations Law

MOSCOW -- The Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved the third and final reading of a bill that widens the scope of a controversial existing law on “undesirable” organizations.

Under the bill approved on June 9, Russian citizens and organizations located in any country of the world will be barred from taking part in the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are labeled "undesirable" in Russia.

According to the bill, "any foreign or international NGOs that provide services or transfer money to NGOs that have the status of an undesirable organization in Russia" will be by extension defined as "undesirable" as well.

The bill also says that as of October 1, Russia's financial watchdog, Rosfinmonitoring, will monitor all financial transfers from certain countries, the list of which will be made public at a later date.

The bill still has to be approved by parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

The "undesirable organization" law, adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States. The European Union has called on Russian authorities to repeal the legislation.

The State Duma approval comes a day after the jailed former executive director of the pro-democracy Open Russia movement, Andrei Pivovarov, was officially charged with "participating in the activities of an undesirable group."

Pivovarov was arrested and placed in pretrial detention for two months last week after he was removed from a Warsaw-bound plane in St. Petersburg just before takeoff.

On June 7, the former chairman of Open Russia, Aleksandr Solovyov, left Russia for Ukraine saying he feared for his safety.

Last week, police searched Solovyov's home in Moscow in a probe launched into what investigators described "as damage imposed on a building belonging to the Moscow city administration."

The search was conducted after another Kremlin critic, opposition politician and former State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov, was placed in custody on June 1 for allegedly failing to pay a debt under a lease agreement for a nonresidential premise in 2015-2017.

Gudkov was released on June 3 and left Russia for Ukraine as well.

Open Russia was financed by Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging Putin’s rule.

The organization associated with Pivovarov was based in Russia and not legally connected with the London-based group with the same name that ended its operations in 2017.

Leaders of the Russia-based Open Russia dissolved the group in late May after authorities designated it as an “undesirable” organization saying the move was made to protect its supporters from further "harassment" by the Russian authorities.