Russia on Friday added the World Wildlife Fund to its roster of foreign agents, along with a top Kremlin critic, a well-known economist and a few others.
Russian law requires individuals and organizations that have received foreign funding and engaged in vaguely defined “political activities” to identify themselves as “foreign agents”.
The label carries further scrutiny from the government. It also has a strong pejorative connotation in Russia. Authorities have used the law to discredit those listed and stifle dissent.
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The World Wildlife Fund, which is based in Washington, is a conservation group with projects all over the world, including in Russia.
Explaining the decision in Moscow, Russia’s Justice Ministry said the organization, “under the pretext of protecting nature and the environment … sought to influence the decisions of executive and legislative authorities” and “obstructed the implementation of industrial and infrastructure projects.”
WWF representatives told Russian news site Meduza that the decision to designate the organization as a foreign agent was unfounded. They promised to challenge in court and stressed that the group will continue to “protect rare animal species and preserve Russia’s nature.”
The ministry also added Russian economist Sergei Guriev, a professor at Sciences Po, a French university also known as the Paris Institute of Political Studies, to the list. He accused Guriev, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, of “speaking negatively about the servicemen of the Russian armed forces” and of “spreading through foreign media false information about the decisions taken by Russian state bodies and the policies they implement”.
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Others added to the roster included Gennady Gudkov, a former lawmaker turned opposition figure who has publicly opposed what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, and feminist blogger Nika Vodvud.
Vodvud, the ministry said, “openly spoke out in support of Ukraine”, “discredited the idea of u200bu200bserving one’s homeland” and “formed a negative attitude towards military service”.
Another addition to the list was the Free Buryatia Foundation, an advocacy group from Russia’s Siberian region of Buryatia which has condemned Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. The group has helped scores of soldiers who refused to continue fighting in Ukraine to return home.
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The Justice Ministry accused the foundation of calling for “actions the results of which could violate Russia’s territorial integrity”.