The Russian government’s actions against three German NGOs have been criticized by Berlin. All three groups say they are committed to bringing the Germans and Russians together to improve mutual understanding.
Russia’s attorney general on Wednesday called three German NGOs a move that was criticized by Berlin and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
The attorney general’s move is aimed at curbing criticism of the Russian government based on a widely criticized law that limits the work of Russian-speaking European assemblies, modern free centers and German-Russian exchange centers.
Why is Russia reducing German NGOs?
The work of the three German NGOs “threatens the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation,” the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said.
Two of these NGOs participated in the St. Petersburg Dialogue, a German-Russian forum that brings together experts and decision-makers from both countries’ civil society and think tanks.
The move comes at a time when a controversial Russian law requires NGOs to receive foreign funds and engage in “political activities” to register as “foreign agents.”
The three NGOs are headquartered in Berlin. The Center for Free Modernity is called the think tank of democracy, freedom and openness to the world. He works with the Sakharov Center in Moscow to protect human rights in Russia. He described Russia’s decision as “an open-whimsical political act.”
“It’s designed to keep us from working with our Russian partners with punches,” says Ralph, director of the NGO, “we have never made any decisions about the Putin regime’s critical stance and will work harder with Russian civil society in this regard.”
Deutsche has been organizing international volunteer exchange projects with a partner organization in St. Petersburg for years. The Russian-speaking European Forum says on its website it opposes the Kremlin’s policy of calling for recognition of the Russian-speaking population in Europe.
How did Berlin react?
“The ban on the work of organizations working to improve understanding between our two countries and their people is a serious setback for our efforts to improve relations with Russia,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, stating; “There is no reason or justification for such steps with respect to your work.
Maas called on the Russian government to change course and “encourage free exchanges with civil society.”
Maas said civil society representatives should be allowed to work without criminalization.