Open Russia, a British-based pro-democracy movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, says it has decided to end its operations in Russia.
The decision was made to protect its supporters from further “harassment” by the Russian authorities due to a bill toughening the law on “undesirable organizations,” Executive Director Andrei Pivovarov said on May 27.
“We do not need new fines and criminal cases, and we want to protect our supporters,” Pivovarov told the independent news website MBKh Media, which was also founded by Khodorkovsky.
The move comes after Russian police last week carried out searches of the offices of Open Russia and MBKh in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Open Russia activists have regularly faced pressure from the authorities since its designation as an “undesirable organization” by Russian prosecutors in 2017, including administrative and criminal charges.
The “undesirable organization” law, adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources — mainly from Europe and the United States.
MBKh Media quoted a human rights lawyer who accompanied the police during last week’s searches as saying that the raids both on its offices and those of Open Russia were being conducted as part of an investigation into a criminal case against Nizhny Novgorod activist and entrepreneur Mikhail Iosilevich regarding activities with an “undesirable organization.”
Iosilevich allegedly provided premises to train election observers prior to regional elections in September.