Russia Places Foreign Agent Label on OVD-Info Rights Controller and Blocks Website | News | DW

Russian communications regulator Rozkomnadzor has blocked the website of Russian rights monitoring group OVD-Info, the organization said on Saturday.

For years, OVD-Info has kept a public record of abuses during anti-Kremlin protests, other cases of political persecution, and provided legal assistance to victims. OVD-Info said on Saturday that its site was blocked earlier this week.

A Moscow regional court issued the ruling against OVD-Info, calling on Rozkomnadzor to “limit” access to its website on December 20.

Rozkomnadzor said that Russian state-owned Interfax OVD-Info was blocked following the court ruling due to “terrorist and extremist propaganda”. The media regulator has also ordered social media companies to shut down their accounts.

Currently in Russia, the OVD-Info website displays a message that read access is restricted by the Federal Law on Information, Information Technology and Data Protection.

What did OVD-Info say?

Maria Kuznetsova, spokesperson for OVD-Info, told Reuters that the group had not been informed either by Rozkomnadzor or by the court.

Kuznetsova said: “It was unexpected for us.”

OVD-Info denounced the designation as being designed to exert “political pressure”.

What is OVD-Info and why does Russia want it closed?

OVD-Info was founded during the Bolotnaya protests in 2011. Previously, the group had campaigned against the legislation on the designation of “foreign agent”.

The ruling against OVD-Info comes as part of a larger Kremlin-backed effort to quell dissent from President Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. During the year 2021, Russia opposed the country’s opposition to dismantling its networks.

In September, the Russian government declared OVD-Info to be a “foreign agent” on a charge of critics of the law aimed at suppressing dissent.

What is so problematic about the designation of “foreign agent” in Russia?

Those who have had the label imposed on them by the Russian government must put a disclaimer on any media release recognizing “foreign agent” status.

The label dissuades advertisers who are reluctant to be associated with a “foreign agent” or even simply with an individual or entity frowned upon by the Kremlin.

Moscow has used the designation several times recently to attack opposition groups the government says engage in foreign-sponsored political activities.

At the start of the year, Russia had already applied the designation 17 times. As of Saturday, that number had exploded to 103 cases.

What did Putin say about the designation “foreign agent”?

On his annual year-end broadcast, Putin said the law was necessary.

“I remind you of what our adversaries have been saying for centuries: Russia cannot be defeated, it can only be destroyed from within,” Putin said.

He added that national dissent overthrew the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

Putin has previously said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.

ar / aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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