‘Foreign agents’ who take cash from overseas will be allowed run in upcoming Russian elections, as long as they don’t hide status

‘Foreign agents’ who take cash from overseas will be allowed run in upcoming Russian elections, as long as they don’t hide status

Candidates who receive foreign funding or are linked to groups bankrolled from abroad will be allowed to stand in Russian elections after a new bill, which also toughens rules on external influence, was backed by Moscow lawmakers.

Members of parliament approved the bill in its second reading on Tuesday. Candidates who are designated ‘foreign agents’ by Russia’s Ministry of Justice, or are connected to organizations given that status, will not be banned from appearing on the ballot under the rule change. However, they will have to display their status when filling in their paperwork and on their published campaign materials.

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Signboard on the headquarters building of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty international organization in Prague. Russia may recognize several media outlets as foreign agents. © Sputnik
US state-run media RFE/RL fined $150,000 by Russia for failing to declare as ‘foreign agent’, says will appeal ‘unfair’ judgements

At the same time, the bill toughens rules for ‘foreign agents’ and other groups, including the media, seeking to influence the election of other candidates. Non-Russian citizens, overseas-run groups, NGOs and others will be prohibited from “carrying our activities that promote or hinder the nomination… or election of registered candidates.” Another provision bans these individuals and organizations from taking part in campaigning or attempting to encourage people to vote one way or another.

In February, the Duma backed measures to increase the size of fines that can be handed out to those designated ‘foreign agents’ for violating the terms of their status in Russia. Organizations and media outlets that promote themselves and their materials without clearly displaying the ‘foreign agent’ label will face fines of up to 50,000 rubles (around $680). Individuals who fall foul of the rules can be billed as much as 2,500 rubles (nearly $35) for each offense.

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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is seen performing at a session of the State Duma, in Moscow, Russia. © Sputnik
Russia tightens ‘foreign agents’ law for groups receiving overseas funding, to ‘prevent interference’ from hostile governments

That same month, US state-run broadcaster RFE/RL, listed as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian Ministry of Justice, was fined close to $150,000 over a series of breaches by its network of websites. It had set up a separate Russian entity, which was later given the same designation. Roskomnadzor, the state media regulator, said there were 166 documented cases of the broadcaster refusing to comply with requirements to display its status.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the introduction of designations and rules governing how overseas-funded groups operate doesn’t prohibit the work of designated organizations but “exists simply to protect Russia from external meddling in our politics.”

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