Why is Russia afraid of NGOs?

Why is Russia so concerned about the state of its constitution? Can NGO activity really undermine a country or are other factors required? Fiona Clark in Moscow goes in search of answers.

Deutsche Welle

This week Russia banned the activities of the US-Congress funded NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy or NED, on Russian territory. This is the first NGO on a list of about 12 ‘undesirable’ organizations to be shut down under a law that came into effect a few months back.

The law basically says that any organization that is deemed to be a threat to Russia’s constitution, sovereignty or security can be shut down and the onus is on the group accused to prove its innocence, should it wish to challenge the decision.

In this case the Prosecutor General’s office described NED as a threat to “the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order, its defense capability and security.” It alleged that the NGO had spent US$5.2 million on pro-democracy activities in Russia that were directly aimed at influencing political events and undermining elections results.

The Russian press chimed in claiming that NED was a central player in the Maidan protests in Ukraine that lead to the ousting of the Yanukovych government. Apparently NED even paid for the cookies that the US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland handed out around the time of that infamous phone call with the US ambassador to Ukraine where they discussed who should and shouldn’t form part of the replacement government.

Irrespective of those allegations and whether the NED is or isn’t an agency funded by the US government which acts to further US foreign policy, the bigger question is, why is Russia so worried about its activities on its soil?

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