First NGO in Murmansk declared “foreign agent”

"We try to raise critical thinking, but the government thinks that it's against their state politics," says Tatiana Kulbakina from Humanist Youth Movement.

“We cannot live with the stigma of being traitors and will appeal this decision,” says Tatiana Kulbakina, member of Humanist Youth Movement, which is the first NGO in Murmansk to be decleared as foreign agents.


A court in Murmansk on Wednesday ruled that the organization “Humanist Youth Movement” should be declared as a foreign agent and needs to apply to the Ministry of Justice for registration as such. 

According to Head of the Prosecutor’s office in Murmansk Olga Prokina, the organization fulfills both conditions needed to be declared as foreign agents: “They receive financing from abroad, and they are involved in political activities,” she says to Arktik-TV. “The articles they publish in media, clearly shows the political character of their activity.”

“Of course we disagreed with this decision,” member of Humanist Youth Movement Tatiana Kulbakina says to BarentsObserver through social media. “Because what we do can’t be counted as political activity from a legal perspective. And we do not act for interest of foreign structures. We do what we do because we want it. And our activity is cultural and educational. We try to raise critical thinking, but the government thinks that it’s against their state politics.”

The organization plans to appeal the court’s decision. If the appeal fails, the Humanist Youth Movement will cease to exist. They will live with the stigma of being traitors, Kulbakina says to Arktik-TV.

The Murmansk court’s decision is based on a “scientific consultancy study” of five issues of the organization’s paper “Human Rights Paper for Youth”, which comes out once a month and has a circulation of 500 copies.

According to the linguistic expert who made the study, the paper has “hidden calls for actions against the ruling party,” which apparently shows that the organization is involved in political activities. The study in particular emphasizes that the words “rights” and “freedom” are often used in the articles.

The paper has been published with financial support from the German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the General Consulate of the Netherlands in St. Petersburg. 

The Ministry of Justice this spring examined the Humanist Youth Movement, and did not find any reason to drive the organization to the wall, Vedomosti writes. This is the first time that the Ministry of Justice stands against the prosecutor’s office in court, Head of the Association of Human Rights Organizations “Agora” Pavel Chikov says to Vedomosti: “The prosecutor’s office through court deflects the Ministry of Justice, which is the competent authority when it comes to NGOs. And the court showed the Ministry of Justice its place.”

Aleksandr Borisov calls the court’s decision a farse.

“The court’s decision is a total disgrace!” says journalist and member of HYM Aleksandr Borisov in an e-mail to BarentsObserver. “It is a pity that such a farce – I cannot call the trial otherwise – has been stirred up around the organization.” 

Borisov says that the Humanist Youth Movement has meant a lot for the development of the youth potential in the Murmansk region. “Thanks to HYM and the work with the volunteers and colleagues there I became a journalist. In the last years HYM has started to pay more attention to human rights in Russia, issuing the “Youth Human Rights Paper”, where I have been taking part as a contributor. This paper became the last straw of patience.” 

Humanist Youth Movement may be stuck with the label “foreign agent” permanently. Even if NGOs stop receiving the funding from abroad that caused their initial registration as a “foreign agent,” there is no existing procedure for removing the label, nor are there plans to introduce one, the Ministry of Justice said on Thursday, Interfax reports.