New Law Enables Russia to Declare Foreign NGOs 'Undesirable'

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that gives prosecutors the power to declare foreign and international nonprofit organizations "undesirable" and shut them down, the Associated Press reports.

Since starting his third term as president in 2012, Putin has worked to stifle dissent among the Russian populace. His return to the presidency, after a term as prime minister, had been greeted by large street protests, which Putin has accused the United States of fomenting. In recent years, a number of new laws have increased pressure on Russian nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that receive foreign funding. The law signed by Putin over the weekend allows prosecutors to curtail the activities of NGOs they deem a threat to Russia's constitutional order, defense, or security.

Human rights activists fear the new law could be used to extend the crackdown to Russian branches of international groups and the Russian activists who work with them. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both have condemned the new measure as part of an "ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society [in Russia]."