Vladimir Putin has signed a bill into law allowing prosecutors to ban “undesirable” foreign and international organisations from operating in Russia.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International branded the move part of an “on-going draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society.”
Since Putin began his third term as president in 2012 he has clamped down on dissent and the new law is the latest in a long line of measures designed to reinforce his grip on power.
The new law enables officials to shut down an organisation which threatens Russian defence, security or its constitutional order.
Russian authorities have become increasingly suspicious of Western intentions in the country due to their involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
Mass street protests, which Putin blamed on the US, have threatened to destabilise the president’s current term in office.
Recent laws have put pressure on Russian organisations, in particular those that receive foreign funding, but activists fear the new law could affect the work of Russian branches of international groups and those who work for them.
David Lidington, the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: “This is yet another example of the Russian authorities’ harassment of NGOs and those who work with them in Russia.
“The new law will directly affect the ability of international organisations to work, promote and protect human rights in Russia and is clearly aimed at undermining the work of Russian civil society.
“I strongly urge the Russian authorities not to interfere in the valuable work of NGOs,” he added.
The US State Department also expressed alarm at the situation and a spokesperson said the US was “deeply troubled” by the new law, and called it “a further example of the Russian government's growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world.”
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