MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Friday added the World Wildlife Fund to its register of foreign agents, along with a prominent Kremlin critic, a renowned economist and a few others.
Russian law requires individuals and organizations that are determined to have received foreign funding and to have engaged in loosely defined “political activity” to identify themselves as “foreign agents.”
The label brings additional government scrutiny. It also carries a strong pejorative connotation in Russia. Authorities have used the law to discredit those listed and to stifle dissent.
The World Wildlife Fund, which is headquartered in Washington, is a conservation group with projects throughout the world, including in Russia.
Explaining the decision in Moscow, the Russian Justice Ministry said the organization, “under the guise of protecting nature and the environment … tried to influence the decisions of the executive and legislative authorities” and “hindered the implementation of industrial and infrastructure projects.”
WWF representatives told Russian news site Meduza that the decision to designate the organization as a foreign agent was unfounded. They promised to contest in court and stressed the group would continue to “protect rare animal species and preserve Russia’s nature.”
The ministry also added Russian economist Sergei Guriev, a professor at Sciences Po, a French university also known as the Paris Institute of Political Studies, to the list. It accused Guriev, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, of “speaking negatively about the servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces” and “spreading through foreign media false information about decisions Russia’s state bodies make and policies they implement.”
Other individuals added to the register included Gennady Gudkov, a former lawmaker turned opposition figure who has publicly opposed what the Kremlin calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine, and feminist blogger Nika Vodvud.
Vodvud, the ministry said, “openly spoke out in support of Ukraine,” “discredited the notion of serving one’s Fatherland” and “formed negative attitude towards military service.”
Another addition to the list was the Free Buryatia Foundation, an advocacy group from Russia’s Siberian region of Buryatia that has condemned Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. The group has helped dozens of soldiers who refused to continue fighting in Ukraine return home.
The Justice Ministry accused the foundation of calling for “actions, the results of which could violate Russia’s territorial inetgrity.”