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AIDS-Prevention NGOs Freed of Foreign Agent Stigma

Published: August 17, 2014 (Issue # 1824)



  • According to Anya Sarang, president of the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, recent changes suggest that Russia does not want to jeopardize international funding of HIV prevention measures.
    Photo: Andrey Rylkov Foundation

Non-governmental organizations working to fight HIV/AIDS in Russia will not be required to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from abroad, Kommersant reported Friday, citing the results of recent inspections by the Justice Ministry.

The inspections, which began in June at the government's request, covered dozens of NGOs working in the sphere of HIV/AIDS throughout the country, including in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, and the Kirov, Kursk and Tyumensk regions.

Newspaper Kommersant said Friday the results of the inspections showed none of the organizations were found by the ministry to be conducting political activities, meaning they will not be required to register as foreign agents even if they are funded from abroad.

The news is likely a relief to many representatives of NGOs who have worried about how to secure financing while at the same time avoiding violating the controversial so-called "foreign agents law," passed in 2012.

According to that legislation, NGOs accepting foreign funding and conducting what the ministry deems to be "political activities" are required to register as foreign agents — a label that, in Russian, carries connotations of espionage.

"It is impossible to explain the position of those doing these checks. Previously, they found politics even in the work of ecologists, but now that is not happening," Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer for the Agora rights group, said in comments carried by Kommersant on Friday.

Anya Sarang, the president of the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, a grassroots organization that seeks to promote awareness of drug addiction and develop a humane drug policy, told Kommersant that the results of the inspections may stem from Russia's new role as a donor country for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The fund had contributed huge sums of financing to Russia for the fight against HIV for nearly 10 years before Russia opted to take on a leadership position and turn down the majority of funding.

That move has led to more scrutiny of Russia's own handling of the HIV epidemic, with many activists warning that the government is not doing enough.

Several Russian NGOs that deal with HIV/AIDS united to apply to the Global Fund for a grant this year, and the application is still pending.

According to Sarang, the results of the Justice Ministry's recent inspections suggest that Russia does not want to jeopardize that request for funding.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK Fest, a five-day festival that started on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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