Elsewhere online
May 19, 2016

Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Ensnaring Service Charities

Russian nonprofits addressing HIV, refugees, and other social issues are increasingly facing pressure under a law designating some groups that receive funding from abroad as “foreign agents,” according to International Business Times.

The measure, adopted in 2012 to combat what the Kremlin terms Western influence on Russian affairs, was initially enforced on human-rights and pro-democracy groups. But in recent months the “foreign agent” label, evoking Cold War-era espionage, has been applied to Sotsium, a small local charity working to stem the spread of HIV, and the parent organization of a center that helps refugee children adapt to the country.

The law targets groups that get foreign grants and are deemed to engage in politics. “Foreign agent” charities are required to identify themselves as such in promotional materials and face more stringent regulatory and legal scrutiny. Russian lawmakers are considering an amendment that would broaden the law, expanding the definition of political activity that could trigger cases, but one legislator said nonprofits addressing "socially important problems" would be protected.

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy column on how impact investing could help foreign charities coming under financial and legal pressure in autocratic countries.