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Closing Russian NGO Memorial would be ‘devastating blow’ – Expat Guide to Germany

Closing down Russian rights group Memorial would deal a “devastating blow” to civil society in the country, the secretary general of rights body the Council of Europe said on Friday.

Memorial said the Supreme Court had informed it that prosecutors filed a demand to dissolve the group under “foreign agent” legislation, which forces individuals or organisations to disclose their funding.

Memorial is Russia’s oldest rights group and campaigns for the preservation of historical memory, and against rights violations especially in the northern Caucasus region.

The closure “would deal a further devastating blow to civil society, which is an essential pillar of any democracy”, said Marija Pejcinovic Buric, urging Russian prosecutors to reconsider.

Buric called the move “very regrettable” and said the foreign agent law “stigmatises NGOs, media and individuals and has had a repressive impact on civil society in Russia over recent years”.

– ‘No legal basis’ –

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas labelled the news “troubling” and hailed the group’s “courageous, tireless work” in the interests of the Russian people.

“But independent, critical and professional reckoning with the past is also incredibly important for relations between Germany and Russia — especially in light of the crimes Germans committed against people in the Soviet Union” during World War II, Maas said in a statement.

He called for “an end to the politically motivated persecution of critical civil society” in Russia.

Memorial on Thursday said there was “no legal basis” for the case, saying it had been accused of failing to identify itself publicly as a designated foreign agent.

“This is a political decision aimed at destroying the Memorial Society, an organisation dedicated to the history of political repression and the protection of human rights,” the group said.

A hearing about the prosecutor’s case at is scheduled for November 25 at 0800 GMT, according to the court website.

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