The Life of a Foreign Agent: Risks and Perspectives on Operating in Russia as a Non-Profit Organization Designated as a Foreign Agent

Since 2012, more than 20 laws have been implemented and are actively applied in the Russian Federation that create significant obstacles for HIV service NPOs that receive foreign financing (laws regulating legal entities–foreign agents, MMO-foreign agents, individuals–foreign agents, citizen groups–foreign agents, and laws regulating undesirable organizations). The effects of these laws are compounded by prohibitions on information about HIV prevention and/or human rights, which is arbitrarily classified as propaganda either for drugs or for non-traditional sexual relations.

In September 2021, 15 HIV service NPOs were registered as foreign agents. Six of these organizations ceased operations. The remaining nine NPOs continue their normal operations, encountering substantial obstacles associated with their designation as foreign agents. The list of HIV service organizations, civic associations, advocacy groups, and experts affected by the restrictions established by these laws in conjunction with foreign financing will grow.

Thus, any operations in the field of HIV involving direct or indirect support from foreign sources must include plans for additional expenses to overcome legislative barriers, as well as to prepare for program, financial, and organizational changes in conjunction with a tightening of laws. Donors and national and international partners must exhibit maximal flexibility in their work with Russian HIV service NPOs, maintain adherence to the principles of scientific validity and international human rights standards in their operations, and strive to preserve and increase the strong professional integrity of local partners.