Rights campaigners say they are not going to give up

Russia's veteran rights campaigners said that despite the Justice Ministry's warning they will continue boycotting the law on nonprofit groups funded from abroad, which obliges them to register as "foreign agents."

The Justice Ministry said on Tuesday evening that it will suspend the activities of nonprofit groups that receive foreign grants from abroad and do not want to register as foreign agents.

"We are not going to give up foreign grants and we are not going to register as foreign agents, either," a leader of the Memorial rights center, Oleg Orlov, told Interfax on Wednesday.

"We are working on all possible steps and all possible responses, and we are discussing joint action with our colleagues in Moscow and in the regions. No by-laws have been devised so far to regulate the enforcement of the law," he said.

There is nothing new in the Justice Ministry's statement, he continued. "It repeats this crazy law, known to all, word-for-word," he said.

Leader of the Movement for Human Rights Lev Ponomaryov agrees with Orlov.

"They are intimidating us, but we have not been expecting anything else, although it is not clear why the Justice Ministry has decided to frighten us now. Why didn't it wait until the law takes effect and by-laws emerge," Ponomaryov told Interfax.

"A wag of the finger won't change my position. I am compelled to disregard the law and to continue receiving grants. I will defend myself legally. I will turn to court, to the Constitutional Court and to the European Court of Human Rights," the rights campaigner said.

The words "foreign agent" sound insulting, he said, adding that he is not a foreign agent and will not register his movement under this name.

Ponomaryov also said that he receives grants from three American funds, but he does not represent the United States' interests and he fears that an international scandal will erupt if the Justice Ministry decides to register the Movement for Human Rights as and "American agent."

"The U.S. government will release a denial, saying that Ponomaryov is not an American agent. How would the Justice Ministry feel? I do care about the reputation of Russia, a great nation that may find itself in a stupid situation due to a law hastily passed by the State Duma," he said.

The right campaigners said they are compelled to accept foreign grants because the Russian government and businesses do not want to finance the independent civil society sector.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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