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“We will not register as Foreign Agents”

The members of Kola Ecological Center have no plans to sign up as "foreign agents". Photo: KEC

The non-governmental organization Kola Ecological Center in Apatity believes they are under watch as Russia’s new NGO-law enters force from November 21.

Location

The group is partly funded by their Norwegian co-partner, but says they will not cease receiving funding from abroad.

“I think we will not cease to receive funding from abroad. We will look for other opportunities in this difficult matter,” says Director of Kola Ecological Center (KEC), Yura Ivanov to BarentsObserver.

The organization is actively working with environmental questions on the Kola Peninsula.

Norwegian partner
Kola Ecological Centre has a long history of cooperation with the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, including a joint program promoting safe decommissioning of older reactors at nuclear power plants in Russia.

“There are few environmental organizations that want to sign up. What implications this new law will have for the organizations are still very unclear, both in regard to those who will sign up and those who doesn’t,” says head of international department, Yngvild Lorentzen.

The law saying that Russian NGOs, that receive funding from abroad and are involved in political activity, will have to register as “Foreign Agents” was passed by the parliament this summer and later sign by President Vladimir Putin. It enters force from next Wednesday.

No political activity
“In early October, our organization held a council meeting on this issue. Our Council decided that we will not register as a “Foreign Agent” because we do not participate in political activities, and we do not conduct political activities. Or organization protects and preserves nature. And we are equal partners with the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature in our joint projects, especially because we are neighbors and we have a common border,” says Yura Ivanov.

“We collaborate on difficult environmental problems, and not doing anyone’s bidding.”

Project funding from Norway
A part of the funding to Kola Environmental Center comes from the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature that again gets this as project funding from Norwegian authorities.

“The majority of the budget [is transferred from the Norwegian partner], after the Swedes stopped financing Russia. KEC has some income from Nordic Council of Ministers, membership fees, support etc., but this is little compared with the support from us”, says Yngvild Lorentzen.

She says the project support from them comes from both the Norwegian Ministry of Environment and the Foreign Ministry

Already got a indirect warning
Yura Ivanov says he already have got some hints that his organization is under watch. In early November, when Yura was in St. Petersburg for a conference, he was contacted by an anonymous man and they agreed to meet at the entrance of a subway station.

“He asked me if I knew the new law on NGOs, and then said that supposedly he had a list of regional NGOs that will have a lot of tests and challenges after the NGO law enters force. He said that in the Murmansk region there are two NGOs, our Kola Ecological Centre and Nature and Youth,” says Yura Ivanov.