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Following Russia’s official retaliation to the Turkish downing of its jet a week ago, in which Putin issued an executive order limiting employment for Turkish workers, restricting Turkish organizations, and reducing the amount of bilateral trade with Ankara, perhaps a far more notable development took place earlier today when the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement in which it recognized George Soros’s Open Society Institute and another affiliated organization as “undesirable groups”, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects.
In a statement released on Monday, prosecutors said the activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation were a threat to the foundations of Russia’s Constitutional order and national security. They added that the Justice Ministry would be duly informed about these conclusions and would add the two groups to Russia’s list of undesirable foreign organizations.
Are the “globalization gloves” finally coming off?
According to RT, prosecutors launched a probe into the activities of the two organizations – both sponsored by the well-known US financier George Soros – in July this year, after Russian senators approved the so-called “patriotic stop-list” of 12 groups that required immediate attention over their supposed anti-Russian activities. Other groups on the list included the National Endowment for Democracy; the International Republican Institute; the National Democratic Institute; the MacArthur Foundation and Freedom House.
Open Society is not the first: in late July, the Russian Justice Ministry recognized the US National Endowment for Democracy as an undesirable group after prosecutors discovered the US NGO had spent millions on attempts to question the legitimacy of Russian elections and tarnish the prestige of national military service.
The Law on Undesirable Foreign Organizations came into force in early June this year. It requires the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to draw up an official list of undesirable foreign organizations and outlaw their activities. Once a group is recognized as undesirable, its assets in Russia must be frozen, its offices closed and the distribution of any of its materials must be banned. That said, it is doubtful that Soros still has any active assets in Russia – his foundation, which emerged in Russia in its early post-USSR years in the mid-1990s, wrapped up active operations in 2003 when Putin cemented his control on power.
If the ban is violated, the personnel of the outlawed group and any Russian citizens who cooperate with them could face heavy fines, or even prison terms in the case of repeated or aggravated offences.
And while it is doubtful that Soros will be making landfall in Moscow any time soon and thus be subject to an arrest warrant, it is notable that the first financial spillover effect from the year’s most dramatic geopolitical event involves note other than the famed “globalizer” and the person who as recent hacked emails divulged was the puppet-master behind the Ukraine presidential coup.
Will the US retaliate in kind and expand its year-long sanctions against Russia as a result as the world continues to careen into fragmented, multi-polar chaos? Or will there be another provocation between NATO-member Turkey and Russia as a result, perhaps one involving Russian ship transit through the Boshporus? With events now moving fast, we should have an answer in the very near future.