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The risk environment in Russia for Western NGOs and foundations

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The operating environment for human rights defenders and civil society activists in Russia has become even more constrained over 2014-15.

Many activists have been subject to harassment and violence. In addition to those working on human rights issues, activists and journalists expressing alternative views on the conflict in Ukraine are at particular risk. Those opposing Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict can expect to be similarly targeted over the next year. Furthermore, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly expressed his fear that Western countries use NGOs to manipulate Russian public opinion in order to stir up popular discontent and advance the foreign policy interests of their home countries.

This briefing sets out the general risk environment within which personnel from Western NGOs and foundations will be operating in Russia. The briefing is in three parts. The first part provides an overview of the current Russian macro-environment, including the political and economic situations and international relations. The second part offers a detailed travel risk assessment covering nine key areas, including terrorism, civil unrest, health and government surveillance. The final part details the Russian legislation that can be used to curtail the activities of Western NGOs and foundations operating within Russia or funding local NGOs.

This briefing is offered for information purposes only. Open Briefing can undertake detailed risk assessments specific to individual organisations and personnel. We can also specify a range of mitigation measures designed to reduce the risks to an acceptable level.

Working closely with our security consultant and trusted partners we are also able to offer NGOs and foundations various security and training packages that provide their personnel with the skills and support needed to operate safely and effectively within Russia or any other country, including hostile environments. Packages are made up of a number of complementary services in the following areas:

  • Risk advisory
  • Protective security
  • Counter-intelligence
  • Contingency plans
  • Training
  • Project security

The level of risk to Western NGOs or foundations operating in Russia is such that we recommend a bespoke risk assessment be carried out prior to any staff travelling to the country. We can then recommend bespoke mitigation and security measures. This is necessary to ensure the safety of staff and the success of any project.

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