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Baikal pressure group must register as 'Foreign Agent', court rules

By The Siberian Times reporter
20 October 2013

Group long warning of pollution threats to famous lake is branded by new law.

Legislators say such groups should be identified if they receive their money from overseas and engage in political activity. They must display the Foreign Agent label in all their publicity. Picture: Alex Cheban 

The Baikal Environmental Wave group has worked since Soviet times on drawing world attention to ecological threats to Siberian jewel, Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake on the planet. It may not be paying the price for its success. 

Last month the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill halted its operations - the key demand of the group. But now a court has ordered the Irkutsk-based pressure group to register as a 'Foreign Agent' because it receives funding from abroad. 

The moniker, conjuring images of spying, is required under a controversial law enacted last year. Legislators say such groups should be identified if they receive their money from overseas and engage in political activity. They must display the Foreign Agent label in all their publicity. 

'The prosecutors decided that we were putting (political) pressure on the state,' said co-founder Marina Rikhvanova, referring to a protest before the mill's closure. Her group received funding from Russia and abroad, she said. 

'We provide all the required financial accounts to all of the oversight organisations,' she said. 

Spokesman Maksim Vorontsov said: 'Baikal Environmental Wave has always maintained an independent stance and asked very uncomfortable questions. It has also encouraged people to protest concrete anti-ecological projects'. 

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