In November 2012, Russia passed a law requiring non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register as foreign agents if they engage in political activity and receive financial support from foreign donors.
The term “foreign agent” raises concern for activist groups because of its negative Cold War connotations. Moreover, the law is seen by many in the international community as a way for the Russian government, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, to further repress civil society groups.
Earlier this year, Baikal Environmental Wave (BEW), the NGO co-founded and co-chaired by 2008 Goldman Prize winner Marina Rikhvanova, came under investigation when it refused to register as a foreign agent after receiving an explicit order to do so from government officials.
According to a report from Pacific Environment, Rikhvanova and her team at BEW filed a complaint against the order with the prosecutor’s office. When they received a response demanding that the organization register as a foreign agent, they filed a legal suit.
Last month, a district court in Siberia's Irkutsk region ruled in favor of the prosecutor, ordering BEW to register as a foreign agent.
Faced with increased government scrutiny, Rikhvanova and the team at BEW are taking steps to protect the organization’s institutional assets and working hard to ensure the continuation of their important environmental work.
Check back often for updates from Rikhvanova on the status of BEW and ways you can show your support.