Russia on Monday declared an LGBTQ Rights group Russian LGBT Network as a ‘foreign agent’. Besides, many lawyers and media persons have also been classified the same by the country. Ivan Pavlov, now in exile, along with four other lawyers were placed on the list.
The list now comprises 93 names of rights activists, journalists, media outlets and others the ministry believes are receiving foreign funding to carry out political activity in Russia.
The Russian government instructed that the groups and individuals classified as ‘foreign agents’ must specify the same in all their publications and on social media. Those on the list will be obligated to comply with strict financial reporting standards and must declare themselves to be foreign agents before publishing anything.
The Russian LGBT Network, which came into existence in 2006 and operates in several regions in the country, provides legal assistance and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families and also carries out educational campaigns, according to its website.
The group had in the month of February, protested the arrest of two Chechen men who were subsequently deported back to Chechnya. They accused Russian authorities of imprisoning and torturing homosexuals in secret jails.
In 2013, Russia had banned the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment procedures among children. Vladimir Putin maintains that Russian society has no problem with homosexuality but children should be left alone until they come of age when they can make decisions for themselves regarding who they want to be.
Meanwhile, lawyer Ivan Pavlov had come under scrutiny in the month of April after he was suspected of revealing sensitive material from the treason case against one of his clients- former journalist Ivan Safronov.
Earlier this year, Pavlov defended the political network of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was admitted to the ICU in the month of August after being allegedly ‘poisoned’. Navalny, Putin’s staunch critic, had then claimed that the Russian President-Vladimir Putin was behind his suspected poisoning.
Pavlov, who was forced to flee Russia in September, after which authorities reportedly put him on a wanted list, welcomed the Russian authorities’ decision to put him on the list of ‘foreign agents’ as a “badge of honour”.
“To become a ‘foreign agent’ today is almost like receiving a state prize for special services in the area of freedom of speech and information,” he said. “The long list of honorees includes so many brilliant journalists and rights defenders that it would even be kind of hurtful not to be one of them.”
Meanwhile, defending its decision of declaring rights activists, journalists, media outlets as ‘foreign agents’ and denying the claims that the media is being harassed, Kremlin said that the legislation is necessary to safeguard Russia from foreign interference.