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News 04 Jul 17

Russia Bans Romanian-American Democracy Organisation

Russia has banned the Bucharest-based Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, a democracy aid organisation established by the US German Marshall Fund and the Romanian Foreign Ministry. 

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
The Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: Leon Yaakov/Flickr.

The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, a democracy aid organisation established in 2007 by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was declared ‘undesirable’ by the Russian government on Tuesday under a controversial law targeting alleged foreign political influence, together with several US non-governmental organisations.

According to a press release issued by the Russian Ministry of Justice, the Romanian-American NGO has been added to a “list of foreign and international non-governmental organisations who activities are considered undesirable in the Russian Federation”.

The ministry said the ban was imposed under a Russian federal law which envisages measures against “persons involved in violations of the fundamental human rights and freedoms” of Russian citizens.

According to the ministry’s press release, the Deputy Attorney-General signed the decision on June 30.

Black Sea Trust representatives told BIRN that the organisation was assessing the impact of the Russian decision and so they were not able to comment further.

According to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation was among the first projects dedicated to development in the Black Sea Region in the United States, set up in 2007 as new countries in the region joined NATO and the European Union.

According to the German Marshall Fund’s website, the Black Sea Trust does not have any projects in Russia, and only funds initiatives in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Black Sea Trust is funded by several US-based institutions and organisations such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ford Foundation and the Mott Foundation, as well as the Latvian and Romanian governments.

The banned list also contains several American organisations, such as the Open Society Foundation founded by billionaire George Soros, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US-Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the Institute of Modern Russia and the London-based Open Russia.

Russian lawmakers recommended in June that Russian state financial regulators and law-enforcement authorities examine a new proposal that would broaden the criteria under which NGOs could be deemed ‘foreign agents’ according to a 2013 law imposing strict measures on organisations that receive funding from abroad and are deemed to be engaged in political activity.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also warned in June that it expected the US to “ramp up the activities of its non-governmental and non-profit organisations ahead of the Russian presidential election” in March 2018 that is likely to give Vladimir Putin his fourth presidential mandate.

Disclaimer: The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation funded BIRN Romania’s ‘Reporting Security in the Black Sea Area’ project in 2016-17.

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