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Russian Feminist Performance Artist Files Appeal Against ‘Foreign Agent’ Listing

MOSCOW — Russian feminist performance artist Daria Apakhonchich has filed a legal appeal against the government’s inclusion of her on its list of “media organizations fulfilling the functions of foreign agents.”

Lawyer Pavel Chikov of the Agora legal-defense organization made the announcement on Telegram on March 1. Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya, has also appealed his inclusion on the “foreign agent” list, the website reported on March 3.

According to Chikov, Apakhonchich’s appeal states that she “never received money or any property from foreign sources for the creation or dissemination of statements or materials that were distributed by foreign media listed under the foreign agents law.”

Apakhonchich added that she regards the restrictions on her rights to be politically motivated, and her complaint includes 12 pages of examples of alleged violations of her rights to expression and privacy.

On December 28, 2020, Apakhonchich and four other individuals, including two contributors to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, were included on the government’s list of “media organizations fulfilling the functions of foreign agents.”

They were the first to be added to the list following a new amendment to the law that authorized the government to apply the designation to individuals.

The Justice Ministry did not offer any justification for adding these individuals to the list.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service following the designation, Apakhonchich said the listing was a surprise “because I am not engaged in journalism.” She added that she believed she was targeted for her “feminist activities.”

On March 1, human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov — another of the individuals added to the list — announced that he was closing down his For Human Rights nongovernmental organization after two decades because of the obstacles created by the controversial “foreign agent” legislation.

Russia’s so-called foreign agent legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

Human Rights Watch has described the foreign agent legislation as “restrictive” and intended “to demonize independent groups.”

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