Last Friday, the law passed its second reading in the State Duma, with 442 in favour and three against. When the bill is signed into law, it will give the procurators and Russia’s Foreign Ministry the power to decide if a foreign firm or a foreign organization is “undesirable.”
Rights groups claim the new law is just one next step tightening the screw on non-governmental organizations. From before, procurators and the Ministry of Justice have the power to brand any non-profit organizations receiving funding from abroad as “Foreign Agents” if they are involved in political activity.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn the draft law in a statement.
“This draft legislation is the latest chapter in an unprecedented crackdown against nongovernmental organizations which is effectively criminalizing lawful activity and squeezing the life out of free speech and association,” says John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International director for Europe and Central Asia.
“We are often asked – is this draft law aimed against international rights groups like yours? But in fact, there is little doubt that its primary targets are Russian activists and Russian independent organizations,” says Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch
Like the “Foreign Agent” law; also this new legislation appears to be designed for selective implementation. The text does not specify which activities are supposed to be “undesirable.”
Unlike the “Foreign Agent” law, this new law does not include the word “non-profit” and can as a result also be used to prosecute foreign companies.
Duma member Aleksandr Tarnavsky who drafted the law, says to BBC that it is on purpose that the law could be used against companies as well as non-profit organizations.
“Unfortunately some foreign organisations for various reasons are working against Russia,” he says and continues: “There may be ideological reasons, or in the interests of shareholders, or economic interests, it’s normal for them to say: ‘Come on, let’s push Russia down, so the value of Russian shares goes down, and then we’ll buy them,” Tarnavsky argues when explain the bill to BBC.