Russian Ministry of Justice Begins Surprise Inspection of Memorial Society for ‘Foreign Agent’ Status

September 7, 2016
Boxes of files prepared for a Justice Ministry inspection September 5, 2016 at Memorial Society , a research and advocacy organization devoted to researching the crimes of Stalin and preventing their recurrence. Photo by International Memorial Society

LIVE UPDATES: The Ministry of Justice is making a surprise inspection of International Memorial Society for “foreign agent” status.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

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Two Buryat Protesters Detained for Protesting During Medvedev’s Visit

Two activists were detained today for picketing with protest signs as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Ulan-Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic for a visit, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing a local site,
Two young men, whose names were not available, stood at the Buryat University, which Medvedev was expected to visit.
One held up a sign, “There’s No Money…We’re Hanging In There…Mood is Bad.”
This was a variation on a saying of Medvedev’s widely replayed on social media, in answer to a request in May from people in the Crimea for a raise in the amount of their pensions:
“There’s no money. Hang in there!”
Another young man held a sign saying “I left school to go into business. I failed…thanks!”.
He was making a variation of a statement Medvedev made recently at a summer camp to teachers with low incomes that if they don’t like the size of their paycheck, they should go into business. 
As Paul Goble, our syndicated columnist, reported, Medvedev has become something of a 21st century “Marie Antoinette.”

Last week he told unhappy pensioners that they should turn off their televisions and go to the theater, as he does.

Some observers have found Medvedev’s awkward pronouncements to be the driving force behind a lot of sentiment against the ruling party, United Russia, before the September 18 elections.

Eye-witnesses who made a video said the young men were taken away by police.
According to the web site, the protest was organized by the Lenin Communist Union of Youth, the youth arm of the Communist Party, which has been protesting austerity measures in Russia.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russian Ministry of Justice Begins Surprise Inspection of Memorial Society for ‘Foreign Agent’ Status
The Ministry of Justice is making a surprise inspection of International Memorial Society, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing Memorial’s Facebook page.
Yesterday, September 5, on orders of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Justice Ministry began an inspection for “discovery of the presence (absence) of signs of ativity of the Organization in the capacity of a non-commercial organizations, fulfilling the function of a foreign agent.”
The Ministry demanded documents (minutes, work reports, lists of publication, financial and bank statements, etc.) for a four-year period (since the law was passed), which is a total volume of 31,250 pages.
The results of the inspection will be announced on September 30.

Arseny Roginsky, a historian and leader of Memorial said (translation by The Interpreter):

“Memorial has worked for about 30 years now, this is evidence that we are needed by many people in the country. I am confident that no matter what the result of the inspection, the work of Memorial will be continued.”

Yesterday, as we reported, the Levada Center, an independent public opinion polling organization, was entered into the “foreign agents’ list.  Currently, there are 141 organizations on the list.

The amendment to the Law on Associations regarding the requirement to register as a “foreign agent” was passed in 2012. If an organization receives funding from abroad and engages in unspecified “political activity,” it is required to register as a “foreign agent” and receive more scrutiny and face more reporting requirements from the Ministry of Justice. A number of groups have refused to do this, citing the vagueness of the concept of “political activity,” whereupon the Justice Ministry has registered them against their will, then subjected them to fines and additional inspections.
The Memorial movement is a complex of several organizations in different cities, some of which, such as the St. Ptersburg Memorial Society, have been designated as “foreign agents” and forced to close or paid fines. Memorial Human Rights Center, which is registered separately, has challenged the designation in court but lost the cases.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick