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The Siberian Times

Bird protection volunteers dubbed 'foreign agents' in shock move by Siberian prosecutors

By The Siberian Times reporter
04 May 2013

An ecological group protecting cranes has been branded a 'foreign agent' under new laws intended to highlight Western political interference in Russia.

'All of us working in the Crane Homeland reserve - scientists, Moscow State University Nature Protection squad, naturalists, volunteers, photographers, ecology experts - express absolute and total anger at the fact that 'Muravyovka' was branded a 'Foreign Agent',' said a statement. Picture: Alexander Lesnyansky

Crane Homeland, in Amur region, say they are 'outraged' by the label which has overtones of spying to many people. The organisation runs a sanctuary for cranes and storks and is run by volunteers, naturalists, and staff from Moscow State University's biology department.

Set up by Russian ornithologist Sergei Smirenskiy, it says it has no political rule - yet has been caught by the controversial new law which was aimed at NGOs funded from abroad. President Vladimir Putin has said Russian NGOs received almost $1 billion in foreign funding in 2013, and that it is right people should know where their money comes from. 

The laws did not seem to be aimed at ecological groups and ironically Putin is Russia's best-known campaigner for the welfare of cranes. 

'All of us working in the Crane Homeland reserve - scientists, Moscow State University Nature Protection squad, naturalists, volunteers, photographers, ecology experts - express absolute and total anger at the fact that 'Muravyovka' was branded a 'Foreign Agent',' said a statement. 

'Muravyovskiy Park of sustainable development is a non-governmental organisation founded by prominent ornithologist and a respectful scientist Sergey Smirenskiy, who at his own risk rented a plot of land in Amur plain where there are Daurskie cranes and Far Eastern Storks.

'For almost 20 years he was fighting  fires,  poachers, spring starvation; he organised children camps and ecological holidays that were popular all around the Far East of Russia. 

'Now as a result of checks done by the prosecutors' office Muravyovskiy Park was branded a 'Foreign Agent'. Studying and protection of the birds were characterised as political activity, and a grant from the International Cranes Foundation was branded foreign financing.'

The group warned it would not be able to afford the additional red tape involved for organisations branded 'foreign agents' under laws which came into effect 

'We will not be able to carry the burden of this label,' said the statement.  'We are asking for help and information support for Muravyovskiy Park.'

No comment has come yet from Amur prosecutors. 

Russia's Golos Association, an independent election monitoring NGO, said last month it would probably have to close, after the organization was fined 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) for failing to register as a 'foreign agent', said RIA Novosti news agency.

Golos was the first NGO to face administrative charges following the introduction of the new NGO law. 

Comments (3)

Relax, people. It's yet another example of 'overbending' by local administration.

Primo, the law has a vast list of exceptions from it, and protection of nature is among those.
Secundo, some other idiots already tried to implement the same law to the group "Help for curing cystic fibrosis" in the small town of Istra. Apparently in 2012 the group won some money to inform people about this quite bad disease, and these money came from Petersburg NGO "Ostrovok" with help of British "Charities Aid Foundation".

In the end prosecutor office withdrew their claim because medical activity is among the exceptions along with nature protection. One simply can't imagine how often overbending happens, with this case I expect the same result, would be nice to hear how it all ended up.

As for the law itself and its implementions, not so long ago an official representative of the city of St. Petersburg in USA wrote down his experience regarding American FARA act that is in action since 1938 and its Russian counterpart. It's broadening your horizons quite much.
In Russian:
Mikhail, Troitsk
05/05/2013 05:48
This is absurd, What is Vladimir Putin's reason for this ridiculous law ? When NGO's receive foreign aid I would think it saves Russian government money, apart from the fact it funds realy important work. Putin behaves like the western burocrats he hates so much.and in the meantime he tries to present himself as a hero of the Russian people, it is sickening and I feel deeply for you and all the other people who suffer under his dictatorial regime. I truly hope you will be able to continue the work you do. Best wishes, Joe.
Joe Strange, Amsterdam, Holland
04/05/2013 22:48
Have been thinking about this for an hour now. Here I am trying to paint Russia in a positive light, and the govt does something like this... I really hope this is reviewed and the case dropped against this organisation. It reeks of the past. disheartening stuff.
Mao Oliver-Semenov, Krasnoyarsk
04/05/2013 20:03

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