Russia declares Pussy Riot member, art collector and satirist ‘foreign agents’

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Russia on Thursday declared a top member of the Pussy Riot band, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and prominent satirist Viktor Shenderovich “foreign agents” as authorities press ahead with a crackdown on dissent.

The justice ministry also added to its list of “foreign agents” several other figures including journalist Taisiya Bekbulatova, art collector Marat Gelman and Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina.

“These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds,” the ministry said in a statement.

Tolokonnikova, 32, is one of three members of Pussy Riot who were sentenced to two years in prison after they sang a “Punk Prayer” denouncing the Russian Orthodox Church’s close ties with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s central Church of Christ the Saviour in February 2012.

She and a bandmate were convicted and sentenced to jail in August 2012.

Shenderovich, 63, is a prominent anti-Kremlin satirist and political observer.

By law, entities identified as “foreign agents” must disclose sources of funding and accompany all their texts, videos and social media posts with a caption mentioning content from a “foreign agent”.

The status is reminiscent of the Soviet-era term “enemy of the people” and is meant to apply to people or groups that receive funding from abroad and are involved in any kind of “political activity”.

The Kremlin says the measures are necessary because of increased interference from abroad with non-governmental groups and journalists exploited by outside actors to meddle in Russian affairs.

A number of independent media outlets including Rain TV and Meduza, a popular Russian-language website, have previously been branded “foreign agents”.

Russia’s most prominent rights group Memorial – also branded a “foreign agent” – was this week ordered by courts to shut down over a number of alleged transgressions including failing to use on all its publications the “foreign agent” label and justifying terrorism and extremism.

The ruling was denounced by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

(REUTERS)

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