Russian prosecutors on Tuesday formally labeled the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, a nongovernmental foundation funded by Congress, as an "undesirable" organization — banning it from operating in the country.
In a statement on its website, the General Prosecutor's Office accused the foundation of working to disrupt national elections, influencing Russian authorities and discrediting the Russian army. The foundation is the first victim of a new law to expel foreign NGOs believed to be working against Russian interests.
Russians who continue working for such groups face up to six years in prison.
The National Endowment for Democracy could not be immediately reached for comment. The bipartisan nonprofit was founded in 1983, and works in more than 90 countries. The group spent more than $5 million in Russia in 2013-14, prosecutors said.
Russia's parliament drafted a list this month of a dozen "undesirables," most of them U.S. nongovernmental organizations such as Freedom House and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Another group, the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, has voluntarily folded its Russian operations.
Russia also tightened rules in 2012 for "foreign agents" — domestic NGOs involved in vaguely defined "political activity" that receive foreign grants. That same year, the American state agency USAID was also expelled after Moscow accused the group of trying to influence Russian politics and the outcome of elections.