On 13 March 2018, the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a civil society network of independent election observation organizations, and its Lithuanian member International Elections Study Center (IESC) were classified as "undesirable organizations" by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, without explaining any reasons. EPDE protested against this decision and was supported by a number of international organisations.
Several international key media report on the recent developments:
Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, states that action against critical voices from Germany is one of stumbling blocks in German-Russian relations. DW has also conducted an interview with Stefanie Schiffer on the decision of the Russian Justice Ministry to recognize EPDE as an “undesirable organisation” and its impact on the relations between the countries, as well as civil society in Russia: "We see this as an attempt to cut off Russian civil society from European networks. And that is not only an enormous loss for Russian civil society, but also, in certain ways, for European civil society" (read the article in German here). It is stressed that "in 2012, the Russian government tightened its policy on NGOs, passing a law requiring NGOs that were "politically active" and receiving financial assistance from abroad to register as "foreign agents" in Russia".
The German newspaper Die Welt reveals how the increasing repression of opposition forces in Putin's Russia affects German democracy activists with EPDE’s enlisting as an example: "For the first time a German non-governmental organization has been declared "undesirable", its activities in Russia have been banned. The CDU politician Ronald Pofalla wants to confront Moscow at the Petersburg Dialogue".
German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung emphasizes the consequences of EPDE’s ban for its Russian colleagues: "Our Russian colleagues are to expect serious consequences, if they continue their cooperation with EPDE, the cooperation with an "unwanted" organization will be punished", as well as the role of a massive media hate campaign against EPDE and Ms Schiffer personally: "Ms Schiffer has been illegally filmed, her telephone conversations have been recorded". TAZ reporters have also contacted the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation on this matter.
The articles, published on the web-site of German radio station Deutschlandfunk, report on the prohibition of EPDE, question Russia’s interest in the dialogue with Germany, providing interviews with Stefanie Schiffer and Ronald Pofalla, who criticise EPDE's ban.
The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel presents an opinion of Ronald Pofalla, the Chairman of the Russian-German public forum “Petersburg dialogue”, who regards the inclusion of EPDE into the list of "undesirable" organisations as “an attempt of intimidation”.
The German national newspaper Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung states that the law, which enables the recognition of foreign organisations as “undesirable”, intends to prevent "colour revolutions" and isolates Russia's critical civil society from the West.
Radio Svoboda, the leading international broadcaster in Russia, also reports on the branding of EPDE and IESC, as well as on the law, “designed to prevent NGOs from promoting democratic institutions in Russia”, which “enables the government to ban the organizations and launch criminal proceedings against Russian groups that work with them”.
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