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Russian Election Watchdog Golos Pursued Under Foreign Agent Law

Russia accused vote-monitoring group Golos of flouting legislation passed last year by failing to declare itself a foreign agent.

“Golos is financed from abroad and is engaged in political activities in the Russian Federation,” the Justice Ministry said today in a statement on its website.

Golos hasn’t declared itself a foreign agent because it only takes Russian donations, deputy director Grigory Melkonyants said by phone. The watchdog may be fined 500,000 rubles ($16,123) and the authorities may open a criminal case to close it, he said.

Russia in 2012 required groups that get money from abroad to register as foreign agents and submit to tighter controls. The Justice Ministry threatened to close human-rights organization Memorial, Golos and the Moscow branch of anti-graft watchdog Transparency International after they vowed to flout the rules. The Kremlin ordered the closing of U.S. aid agency USAID, which has financed Golos and Memorial.

Raids on Russian non-government organizations are “routine events” designed to determine whether the NGOs’ activities “comply with their declared goals,” President Vladimir Putin said March 28.

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