MOSCOW, September 5 (RIA Novosti) – The Moscow authorities have donated an office to a Russian human rights NGO, a source in the city administration told RIA Novosti Thursday, after it was evicted from its previous home in July.
The For Human Rights movement’s new downtown office will be free of charge to the organization for 49 years, the source said.
The NGO was forcibly evicted from its original Moscow office in June, after the authorities claimed its lease had expired, in an overnight operation by private security guards with the attendance of the police.
The organization’s leader, 73-year-old human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, told journalists that he was beaten by security forces during the eviction. Ponomaryov called the group’s ousting a “forcible takeover,” and claimed that the rent had been paid through the end of July.
Russia’s human rights envoy Vladimir Lukin said the Moscow authorities and the Interior Ministry had violated the law during the eviction. The police maintained they had only attended to maintain order and said there was no violence.
For Human Rights is one of hundreds of NGOs that came under increased government scrutiny following a controversial new law that took effect in Russia in November, requiring NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in political activities to register as “foreign agents.” Hundreds of NGO offices across the country were raided and searched by police throughout the spring.
Lukin filed an appeal on August 30 to revise the law’s definitions of “foreign agents” and “political activities,” which he called “politically and legally ambiguous,” Kommersant daily reported earlier this week.
Russian billionaire-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov, the leader of the Civil Platform party, pledged in June to donate 1.5 million rubles ($45,000) to pay a year’s rent for the For Human Rights movement.
The Moscow authorities have also donated free 49-year office leases to another human rights NGO, Hot Line, and the In Defense of Prisoners’ Rights NGO, the city administration source said.