On 20 January, the Russian Ministry of Justice decided to include the Nordic Council of Ministers’ office in St Petersburg on the list of NGOs considered as fo
reign agents in Russia. The Nordic countries have appealed against this decision. The decision was preceded by a letter from the local prosecution authorities in St Petersburg in which the Council of Ministers’ activities were classified as political. On 12 January, the Council of Ministers’ office in St Petersburg received a letter from the local prosecution authorities requiring the office to be registered as a “foreign agent” in Russia with immediate effect. On 20 January, the Russian Ministry of Justice decided to include the office on the list of NGOs considered as foreign agents in Russia.Under Russian law, NGOs engaged in political activities and receiving financing from abroad must register as foreign agents. NCM’s office in Russia has had the status of NGO, i.e. a voluntary organisation, since its inception in 1995. “The Nordic Council of Ministers regrets what has happened. We believe that both the prosecuting authority’s demands and the Ministry of Justice’s decision are unfounded. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ office has reported this to the prosecuting authority in a meeting today,” says Secretary General Dagfinn Høybråten. “During the 20 years we have had an office in St Petersburg, our partnership with both the local and central authorities has been open and close. Our operations there have, in all respects, been consistent with our agreement with the Russian Federation and Russian law.“The Nordic Council of Ministers has been in dialogue with the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow for some time with regard to the possibility of changing the St Petersburg office’s status in a way that could secure its activities going forwards. The process is now intensifying with the aim of reaching an acceptable solution,” says Høybråten. The Council of Ministers is currently investigating the impact of the Ministry of Justice’s decision on NCM’s activities in Northwest Russia.“It’s too early to say what this impact may be, but even in these circumstances, the office will follow Russian law,” Høybråten stresses. Denmark, which currently holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has also commented on the situation.