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Russia designates human rights campaigner a ‘foreign agent’

In Europe
February 03, 2024

The Russian Justice Ministry designated Oleg Orlov, one of the leaders of the Memorial human rights group, a “foreign agent,” the ministry announced on Feb. 2.

The designation requires people and entities who allegedly receive “support” from abroad to place a disclaimer in all of their publishing and mandates strict financial reporting. It is broadly seen as a means to repress domestic opposition.

According to the Russian Justice Ministry, Orlov “opposed the special military operation in Ukraine (the Kremlin’s official name for its full-scale invasion), disseminated false information about decisions by official bodies of the Russian Federation, and participated in the creation of materials for foreign agents.”

Orlov, a 70-year-old civil activist and historian, has been a co-chair of Memorial for more than two decades. He was fined in October 2023 for “discrediting the Russian military,” a criminal article introduced to silence anti-war opposition in Russia.

The Memorial group’s activities focused on researching crimes committed by the Soviet Union during the Stalinist era and on advocating for human rights in and around modern-day Russia.

The group’s human rights wing was declared a “foreign agent” in 2014, and the label was extended to the organization as a whole by 2016.

A Russian court ordered the group’s dissolution in December 2021, a process finalized in April 2022 amid a sweeping crackdown against civil society and domestic opposition. The group continues to operate abroad.

Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2022, alongside the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties and Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski.

Read also: Opinion: How Russia’s succession problem makes its future uncertain

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