The Russian government has officially branded the main group advocating for LGBTQ rights in the country a “foreign agent,” the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on opposition, media figures, and human rights groups, The Moscow Times reports.
The Russian LGBT Network bills itself as an interregional non-governmental organization working to advance LGBTQ rights at the federal level in Russia. Founded in 2006, the organization provides legal assistance to LGBT people and their families and carries out educational campaigns to promote acceptance of LGBT people.
Being branded a “foreign agent” requires the organization to put that status in all of its publications and social media as well as comply with additional regulatory burdens. It is meant to stigmatize groups receiving “foreign funding” and carrying out “political activity,” and is reminiscent of the Soviet-era “enemy of the people” label, The Moscow Times reports.
The Russian LGBT Network published a statement on its Facebook page announcing its plan to appeal the decision:
On November 8, 2021 Russian LGBT Network was added to the list of unregistered social movements fulfilling the function of foreign agents.
Reasons as to why our Movement has been added to the list of foreign agents are unknown to us, and we are planning on finding out the cause and appealing the decision.
We cannot make assumptions as far as consequences of this decision go, but we know one thing for sure: this situation will present some difficulties, yet it will certainly not put an end to the work of LGBTQ+ activists in Russia.
It’s not the first time the group and its affiliates have come under fire from the Russian government. In 2016, the Russian Ministry of Justice added the charitable foundation “Sfera,” which funds and operates the Russian LGBT Network, to the register of foreign agents. Sfera denies the allegation that it is a foreign agent.
“The ‘Sfera’ team is honored to make part of this list in today’s Russia as this means to be put par with the strongest and most well-known human rights organisations in the country,” says The Russian LGBT Network statement.
See also this news of other Russian repression of human rights activists — from Human Rights Watch (Nov. 12, 2021):
Russian authorities have moved to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights organization, an outrageous assault on the jugular of Russia’s civil society. (Read more.)