The Russian prosecutor general's office has added two U.S.-based non-governmental organizations to its list of foreign NGOs whose activities are deemed "undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation."
The office said Thursday that the work of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) "poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and state security."
The IRI is based in Washington and funded by the U.S. Congress. Its board of directors is chaired by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who also chairs the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee and was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 presidential election in the United States.
The IRI says its programs are aimed, among other things, at encouraging democracy "in places where it is absent" and helping democracy "become more effective where it is in danger."
The New York-based MDIF says it "provides affordable financing and technical assistance to independent news and information businesses in challenging environments."
In March, the Russian prosecutor general's office added the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) to the list of organizations whose presence in Russia is deemed "undesirable."
Sergei Nikitin, director of the Russian branch of Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said Thursday that the latest move against foreign organizations was designed to "send yet another unmistakable message: Russian NGOs and independent media should steer clear of foreign funders – and foreign funders should steer clear of Russia.”
In May 2015, President Vladimir Putin signed a law giving prosecutors the right to declare as "undesirable" foreign and international non-governmental organizations whose activities are deemed a threat to Russia's constitutional system, "defense capability or the security of the state."
Amnesty's Nikitin said Thursday the aim of that law is to “isolate Russian civil society, intimidate human rights defenders and suffocate the free press that are facing increasing difficulties in accessing sustainable funding.”