On September 1, environmental NGO "Aetas" was recognized as a "foreign agent", but did not enter this register voluntarily. On October 18, the Solombala District Court of Arkhangelsk opened an administrative case.
Specialists of the Ministry, who conducted an unscheduled inspection of environmentalists in July 2017, believe that the activists had to apply for inclusion in the register of "foreign agents" voluntarily. The Justice Ministry requests a fine from 300,000 to 500,000 rubles.
According to lawyer of the NGO Lawyers Club Viktor Vorobyov, who represented the interests of "Aetas", the judge did not allow representatives of the Ministry of Justice to participate in the process, as they incorrectly issued a letter of attorney.
The defender made a motion to demand the inspection materials. Employee of the Ministry of Justice, who was not taking part in the case, became a witness. She presented the inspection report.
Viktor Vorobyev demanded to provide letters from the regional FSB department and the center for countering extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Arkhangelsk region, after which the Ministry of Justice conducted an unscheduled check: there were no materials in the case files. The judge upheld the motion and postponed the trial until October 25, obliging the Ministry of Justice officials to provide the documents.
The basis for the recognition as a foreign agent was a foreign funding. "Aetas" have been cooperating with the largest organization of Norway Natur og Ungdom ("Nature and Youth") for many years, it supported the Russian projects. Using these funds, environmentalists from Arkhangelsk conduct educational activities on climate, sorting of garbage, this year they launched a project to transfer one of the villages of the region to renewable energy sources. Also, "Aetas" received grant support from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat (established in 2008, a structure which purpose is to strengthen cooperation between Russia and Norway in the north). There was a one-time grant from the affiliate of the American non-profit corporation American Bar Association, SIILI, Inc. (in 2015, one of the "Aetas" volunteers received funding for a project on the disposal of solid domestic waste).
Online records of activists on the problems of climate change and calls to change this situation were also recognized political activities.
Activists of "Aetas" decided to liquidate the organization. They will continue to work, but without a legal entity. "We have projects, we want to work on them. But we will not have an operating account, it will be more difficult for us to participate in public councils. And we do not want to go through the inspections of the Ministry of Justice again," said Anastasia Kochneva, the chairman of the organization.