Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement today (26 May) on the ban on the activities of three German NGOs in Russia:
Banning the activities of organisations endeavouring to foster understanding between our two countries and peoples is a serious setback for our efforts to improve relations with Russia. Against this background, the decision by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to ban the activities of a total of three German NGOs in Russia is especially disconcerting and indeed unacceptable.
Two of the organisations have been involved in the Petersburg Dialogue to promote German-Russian understanding for many years. Nothing about their work can warrant or justify such a serious step. I therefore call on Russia to reverse this step and encourage the free exchange with civil society. Representatives of civil society must be allowed to do their work without being criminalised.
The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office today for the first time designated three German organisations as “undesirable foreign organisations”. The organisations are the Forum of Russian-Speaking Europeans, the Center for Liberal Modernity and the German-Russian Exchange. There has been a law on “undesirable foreign organisations” in Russia since May 2015. It applies to organisations which are not based in Russia.
The decision on which organisations are undesirable is made by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office with the approval of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. Registration by the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation is a de facto ban on activities by the organisations in Russia and it makes cooperation with them on the part of Russian organisations a punishable offence.