MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court on Wednesday ordered the closure of Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Centre, a day after its sister organisation and the country’s oldest human rights group was ordered to disband by the Supreme Court.
State prosecutors had accused both organisations of breaking a law requiring them to act as “foreign agents”. Both said the charges against them were politically -motivated.
International rights groups and the U.S. State Department strongly condemned Tuesday’s ruling against sister organisation Memorial International, a move which capped a year of unprecedented crackdown of dissent in Russia.
The closure bookmarked a year in which Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s top critic, was jailed, his movement banned and many of his allies forced to flee. Moscow says it is simply enforcing laws to thwart extremism and shield the country from what it says is malign foreign influence.
Critics say that Vladimir Putin, in power as president or prime minister since 1999, is turning back the clock to the Soviet era when there was zero tolerance of dissent. The Kremlin, at odds with the West on everything from Ukraine to Syria, says it is impossible to recreate the Soviet Union.
Established in the final years of the Soviet Union, Memorial initially investigated the crimes of the Stalin era, but later broadened its remit to looked into modern-day abuses too.
That irked the authorities who sometimes accused the group of siding with extremists.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)