Fine after fine. Over one hundred Russian “foreign agents” are on the verge of criminal prosecution
Fine after fine. Over one hundred Russian “foreign agents” are on the verge of criminal prosecution
17 May 2024, 15:34

Art: Maria Tolstova / Mediazona

Along with the new restrictions for people on the “foreign agents” list, Russia has also begun to bring criminal cases against them: for the absence of a special disclaimer or failure to submit a financial report. There are not many cases so far, but has calculated that at least 119 people could formally face criminal charges at any moment — all of them have received two or more “foreign agents” fines in the past year.

One of the first laws that Vladimir Putin signed after his next inauguration in 2024 was another repressive restriction against people who had been declared “foreign agents” by the Ministry of Justice. Now they are not allowed to participate in any elections. The law was hastily adopted amid large-scale protests against a similar “foreign agent” law in Georgia.

While Georgia is just preparing to announce the first “foreign agents”, the Russian list already has 801 entries (at the time of this text’s publication, the register had not been updated for a month). 437 of them are individuals.

People on this list are subject to many formal restrictions (e.g., on participating in elections or teaching). In addition, they are obliged to submit regular reports on their income and expenditures to the Ministry of Justice and to accompany all their public statements with a special “foreign agent” disclaimer.

According to Mediazona’s calculations, at least 1 in 2 people on the list has been at least once fined for violating the procedure for activities prescribed for “foreign agents” (at least 224 people).

For some time, the Ministry of Justice and Roskomnadzor did not actively monitor compliance with the requirements, but at the end of 2023, Mediazona discovered a new trend: “foreign agents” began to receive repeated protocols en masse. This allows to keep people in a kind of criminal limbo: because if a person has two current (not older than a year) administrative fines, a criminal case can be brought against them at any time — under Article 330.1 of the Criminal Code (“systematic evasion of duties” imposed by the law on organisations and individuals “performing the functions of a foreign agent”).

In March 2024, Roskomnadzor, the censorship agency that usually finds violations and draws up protocols, confirmed that by the beginning of 2024, 13 “foreign agent” criminal cases had already been initiated. It soon became known that feminist activist Darya Serenko and blogger Alexander Nevzorov were being prosecuted for repeated “violations”. The criminal case against journalist Andrei Zakharov (who left the country) was used as grounds to search the home of his colleague Ksenia Klochkova (who remained in Russia).

Mediazona studied the websites of district courts and found out that after the first quarter of 2024, 119 “foreign agents” have already received two or more fines within a year. This means they can become parties to a criminal case at any moment. It is not known how many of them have already been prosecuted.

Roskomnadzor and the Ministry of Justice continue to issue new fines against such people, so 50 “foreign agents” already have three recent fines each, and six people have four fines each. In one instance, courts carried out nine decisions on fines within the past year.

Editor: Yegor Skovoroda

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