“I feel worried about it. I disagree that we are doing some foreign agent things. It has such a negative cliché,” says Anna Kireeva to BarentsObserver.
The Murmansk based environmental NGO discovered late Thursday evening that it was listed as so-called “Foreign Agents” on the Ministry of Justice’s portal.
“I don’t really realize what it means, but I deeply disagree with the general statement.”
Anna Kireeva believes it is the organization’s latest report about pollution from the heavy industry on the Kola Peninsula that has triggered Moscow to brand Bellona Murmansk as “Foreign Agents”.
“In Bellona’s latest report about industrial pollution in the Russian territory of the Barents Region we stated that according to the current environmental legislation for pollution it is cheaper to pay a fine than to modernize the production, it is a known fact, but the Ministry of Justice found some political activity in this statement and in this report,” Kireeva explains.
In 2012 Russia’s parliament adopted a law that requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register as “Foreign Agents” if they are engage in political activity and receive foreign funding.
The law triggered massive protests from other nations and organizations, considering it to be aimed at a massive crackdown on civil society in Russia.
Anna Kireva says Bellona Murmansk can not continue to work as before after the foreign agent stamp came late Thursday night.
”It is unreassonable and it is useless. All the NGOs who were considered to be foreign agents are not sucessfully working any more.”
Bellona Murmansk is the thrid NGO on the Kola Peninsula getting the foreign agent stamp by the Ministry of Justice in Moscow. In total, some 48 organizations all over Russia are now listed as foreign agents.
Bellona Murmansk has been working with nuclear safety, alternative energy and industrial pollution in the Russian north for more than two decades. The organization get part of its funding from Bellona in Norway, although the organizations are formally independent from each other.
Nils Bøhmer with Bellona in Oslo strongly disagrees with the Justice Ministry’s formulation.
“We obviously don’t agree that our offices in Murmansk should be designated ‘foreign agents,” he says in a phone interview with BarentsObserver
“Together with our Russian colleagues, we are now examining alternative ways to continue our environmental battle in Northwest Russia,” Bøhmer adds. “We are considering other organizational forms that Bellona n could take.”
Essentially reorganizing in a different legal form is one route many other Russian NGOs that have been labeled as foreign agents have taken to duck the foreign agent designation and continue their work.