Revenge for successful campaign against Baltic NPP - Ecodefense has been declared a "Foreign Agent"

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On June 16, 2014 the Russian environmental NGO Ecodefense received an inspection report of the Ministry of Justice declaring the organization a "Foreign Agent".[1] The decision was based on Ecodefense's successful campaigning against Baltic NPP near Kaliningrad. 2013 the construction work on site had been frozen and continuation is unclear after intensive campaigns against the new nuclear power plant. To be declared a "Foreign Agent" means de facto the closure of an organization. Ecodefense interpreted the declaration a revenge for the successful activities against Baltic NPP.

A previous inspection by the Russian authorities in spring 2013[2] didn't find any indices for considering Ecodefense a "Foreign Agent". It seems that the 2014 inspection first came to the same result but under pressure from Moscow was changed to the final statement Ecodefense indeed would act as a "Foreign Agent". By definition, "Foreign Agents" are registered Russian nongovernmental organizations (NGO) undertaking political activities with foreign support. This weak definition of the law practically could allow to declare many critical NGOs "Foreign Agents". The law had been criticized by Russian human rights organizations already since 2012, when it was introduced. Ecodefense was one of the 11 NGOs filing a complaint against the law to the European Court of Human Rights in early 2013[3].

Ecodefense was not only actively campaigning against the Baltic NPP, but also involved to the successful campaign in cooperation with German anti-nuclear groups finally stopping the uranium waste transports from the German uranium enrichment facility in Gronau to Russia[4]. Representatives of Ecodefense were also guests at the protest against several Castor transports to Gorleben. It is an important Russian partner organization for many anti-nuclear groups in Germany.

Ecodefense will appeal the "Foreign Agent" stigmatization in court. However, if the decision will be confirmed in court, it would mean the closure of the NGO. With the label of a spy acting for foreign interests it is practically impossible for organizations in Russia to work in public. And other NGOs cooperating with them in any way would face the risk to be declared a "Foreign Agent", too. Ecodefense is not willing to give up and will fight for their rights in the courts as long as possible[3].

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