Olga Gnezdilova

Lawyer, legal consultant with “Article 20”

Jul 21, 2021
Amendments to the law on “undesirable organizations”. Highlights

On July 12, 2021, yet another amendment to the legislation on Undesirable NGOs entered into force in Russia. The changes mean that now anyone who works with an “undesirable” organization can be subject to administrative penalties, whether that activity took place within Russia or abroad, if the authorities deem that the organization works “directly against the interests of the Russian Federation”. Russian citizens can still be criminally prosecuted for working with such organizations inside Russia’s territory, though real life cases have shown us that the definition of “territory” has been expanded to include the Internet.

Between May and June 2021, nine organizations were added to the Registry of Undesirable NGOs. In total, the registry now includes 40 NGOs with various legal and organizational designations, mostly located in the United States and Europe.

Grounds for Declaring an Organization Undesirable

Previously, an NGO could be disgnated “undesirable” if it “posed a threat to the foundations of constitutional order, defense capabilities, or state security in the Russian Federation”. As of 2021, the law has been amended, and organizations can be designated if they:

  1. Promote or hinder the nomination of candidates, lists of candidates, the election of registered candidates, and reaching a certain result in elections.

    Thus, any informational activity related to elections may fall under this clause.
  1. Provide intermediary services (facilitate) for financial and property transactions for “activities which pose a threat to the foundations of constitutional order, defense capabilities, or state security” in the Russian Federation.

    This clause can be interpreted to include a foreign organization providing services to entities or individuals, whether or not those entities or individuals have been recognized as “undesirable organizations” or foreign agents. A certification from the FSB is sufficient to confirm that there is a threat, and there is no possibility of appealing this decision in court. According to this clause, any foreign organization that works with money or property can be recognized as undesirable, regardless of the amount of money in question or its country of origin.

Even if, based on the first clause, an organization decides to play it safe and refrains from expressing any opinions about elections or candidates, the second clause means that any foreign organization can simply be deemed undesirable, anyway.

The Consequences of Being Recognized as an Undesirable Organization

  1. NGOs designated as undesirable may not register, establish any offices within the territory of the Russian Federation, and existing divisions must cease their activities.
  2. Credit institutions and non-credit financial institutions are prohibited from carrying out any financial transactions in which one of the parties is an “undesirable NGO”. They must then provide information on refusing any such requests to the federal government agencies responsible for combating the laundering of proceeds from crime, the financing of terrorism, and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction- that is, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice[1].
  3.  Foreign or international NGOs are prohibited from establishing any legal entities or participating in them within the territory of the Russian Federation.[2]

Consequences of Being Designated as Undesirable, for Partner Organizations and Individuals

  1. Undesirable NGOs are prohibited from disseminating informational materials, including in the media and online, and they are also banned from producing and storing those materials with an intent to disseminate them. This can include reposting any undesirable materials, references to reports, research, and statements, including the fact that they were recognized as “undesirable”. The clause on “intent to disseminate” should be interpreted to mean “more than one copy”.
  2. Any programs (projects) for undesirable NGOs are prohibited within Russian territory. The project does not need to come directly from the NGO itself in order to fall within this category, and the word “for” shall be interpreted very broadly, for example, to include “in the interest of” or “in partnership with”. This applies in full to Russian NGOs, individual Russian citizens, and Russian commercial organizations, as well.
  3. Russian entities, Russian citizens, and stateless persons permanently residing in the Russian Federation[3] are prohibited from participating in the activities of undesirable NGOs outside the territory of the Russian Federation.
  4. According to the Federal Law “On the Procedure for Exit out of the Russian Federation and Entry into the Russian Federation”, foreign nationals and stateless persons involved in the activities of undesirable NGOs may be prohibited from entering the territory of the Russian Federation.

If a partnership between an undesirable organization and other organizations or individuals persists in any form (correspondence, joint statements, payment of membership fees, the transfer of projects from an undesirable organization to an organization without such status), the parties may be subject to sanctions.

Sanctions

ViolationTerritory of activities, nationality of the offender, statute of limitations  SentenceArticle
Participating in the activities of an “undesirable NGO”  Regardless of the territory where the activity takes place. Within the Russian Federation- unconditionally; abroad- if the activity is directed against the interests of the Russian Federation[4]   Citizens of the Russian Federation, stateless persons permanently residing in the Russian Federation[5]   Statute of limitations – 2 years  Citizens – a fine of 5,000-15,000 rubles; Officials – a fine of 20,000-50,000 rubles; Employees of electoral commission bodies – disqualification for one year; Entities – a fine of 50,000-100,000 rubles.  Article 20.33 of the Code on Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation
Violation of the prohibitions established by the “Dima Yakovlev” Law (see “Consequences of recognition”).  Regardless of the territory where the activity takes place. Within the Russian Federation- unconditionally; abroad- if the activity is directed against the interests of the Russian Federation[4]   Citizens of the Russian Federation, stateless persons permanently residing in the Russian Federation[5]   Statute of limitations – 2 years    
Participation in the activities of an “undesirable NGO”, by a person previously subjected to an administrative penalty under Article 20.33, or previously convicted under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.  Only within the territory of the Russian Federation   Citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens, stateless persons[6]   Statute of limitations – 6 yearsA fine of 300,000-500,000 rubles or income for a period of 2-3 years; Compulsory labor up to 360 hours; Forced labor up to 4 years; Imprisonment for 1-4 years.  Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Part 1
The provision or collection of funds or the provision of financial services knowingly intended to support the activities of an “undesirable NGO” within the territory of the Russian Federation (single offense).  Only within the territory of the Russian Federation   Citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens, stateless persons[6]   Statute of limitations – 6 yearsCompulsory labor up to 360 hours; Forced labor up to 4 years; Imprisonment for 1-5 years.  Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Part 2
Organization of activities for an “undesirable NGO” within the territory of the Russian Federation (single offense).  Only within the territory of the Russian Federation   Citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens, stateless persons[6]   Statute of limitations – 6 yearsCompulsory labor up to 480 hours; Forced labor up to 5 years; Imprisonment for 2-6 years.  Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Part 3

The definition of the “territory of the Russian Federation”

It is important to remember that any activities conducted online, and the results of those activities made available to Russian Internet users may be recognized as “activities within the territory of the Russian Federation”.

At the same time, nothing published online is ephemeral, that is, even if the information was posted prior to the law’s entry into force, if it remains online after the law has taken effect, those responsible are still subject to sanctions.  

This new legislation not only restricts direct cooperation between “undesirable NGOs” and Russian entities and citizens, but also criminalizes even a single instance of assisting with the financing of such NGOs, regardless of the sum of money actually involved.


[1] Article 3.2. Federal Law of December 28, 2012 Number 272-FZ (as amended on June 28, 2021) “On measures of influence on persons involved in violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation”.

[2] Article 3.1. Federal law of December 28, 2012 Number 272-FZ (as amended on June 28, 2021) “On measures of influence on persons involved in violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation”.

[3] Clause 6, Federal Law of June 28, 2021 Number 230-FZ.

[4] Article 1.8 of the Code on Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation, Federal Law of June 28, 2021 Number 232-FZ, Part 3.

[5] Article 2.6 of the Code on Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation, Federal Law of June 28, 2021 Number 230-FZ.

[6] Article 33 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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