Human Rights Watch’s offices in central Moscow, which were raided by inspectors. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters
Germany and France summoned Russian diplomats in Berlin and Paris on Wednesday, after Russia launched a series of raids on international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the country amid a wider crackdown on critics of the Kremlin.
The sweeps, billed as an attempt to weed out “foreign agents”, targeted human rights organisations, environmental advocates, women’s groups, non-Orthodox churches, charities and at least one French language school. Among the sites raided were the Moscow offices of the rights groups Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International.
“This is the planned destruction of the NGO sector in Russia,” said Lev Ponomarev, head of For Human Rights, a Russian group that was targeted on Monday. “It’s a war on NGOs and the strengthening of the authoritarian police state.”
Russia’s president has still not recovered from the protests that swept Russia last year – and wants to ensure they don’t return