In December 2016, the think tank that conducts sociological research on nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in Russia, and a long-standing Fare member, was designated a ‘foreign agent’ by the federal government of Russia. SOVA Centre appealed the ruling, but the appeal has since been denied.
The group is calling on NGOs and individuals to help fundraise the equivalent of the fine to allow them to continue their work.
Russia’s 2012 law on foreign agents means NGOs face additional, often crippling police and governmental scrutiny.
Alexander Verkhovsky, Director of the SOVA Centre told Fare in December: “According to Russian legislation, organisations are listed as ‘foreign agents’ if they receive foreign funding in any form (which we, of course, receive) and engage in ‘political activity’. The latter is interpreted very broadly.
“In our case it was suggested that we provide assessment of state bodies’ activity publicly. It is obvious that almost any NGO provides such an assessment. This means that in order to list us as a ‘foreign agent’ some additional arguments are needed.
“The inclusion of SOVA in the list of ‘foreign agents’ means a number of unpleasant things for us, including the obligation to indicate this everywhere. Most importantly, we know that some of our potential partners could be simply afraid to work with us. And this may lead to limiting our activity.”
Since 2014 the SOVA Center has published two influential reports in conjunction with Fare on the situation in Russian domestic football. A third report is due out soon.
The SOVA Center was first established in 2002 by human rights activists from the Moscow Helsinki Group and “Panorama” Centre.