The Russian investigative news outlet The Project has announced the "liquidation" of its U.S.-registered company a day after being declared an "undesirable" organization by the Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow.
The Project's editors wrote on Telegram on July 16 that their company registered in the United States "is in the stage of liquidation and has no financial relations with journalists working in Russia."
"However, we, as journalists, continue to believe that our work is important and necessary for our motherland. We will communicate later about how our journalistic team will continue its work. At this point, we can say the main thing -- the investigations will continue. Once again, thank you for your support. Journalism is not a crime," the statement said. The move came hours after single-person protests were held in Siberia's largest city, Novosibirsk, to express support for The Project's staff members and other journalists who were added to the controversial registry of foreign agents a day earlier.
In all, eight journalists, including The Project's chief editor, Roman Badanin, and four of his colleagues, as well as an RFE/RL freelance correspondent in Moscow, Yelizaveta Mayetnaya, the chief editor of Open Media news outlet, Yulia Yarosh, and her deputy, Maksim Glikin, were added to the list of "foreign agents," on July 15.
The July 15 raids were seen as part of a wider crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections in September on media authorities view as hostile and foreign-backed. In raiding The Project, authorities targeted a media outlet that has published a series of well-researched, unflattering, and sometimes embarrassing investigations into Russia's ruling elite. Last month, police in Moscow carried out searches at the homes of Badanin and other colleagues from The Project hours after it published a report questioning how Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his relatives acquired their wealth.
The inclusion of Yelizaveta Mayetnaya, a Moscow-based freelancer for RFE/RL's Russian Service, on the "foreign agents" list was condemned by RFE/RL President Jamie Fly.
"RFE/RL deplores the Russian government's decision to add our correspondent Yelizaveta Mayetnaya to its list of 'foreign agents.' The journalists who work for RFE/RL in Russia are proud Russians, seeking to use their skills to provide objective news and information to their fellow citizens. These escalating Kremlin attacks on independent voices only serve to deprive the Russian people of access to information at a critical moment in Russia’s history," Fly said in a statement. Russia’s controversial "foreign agent" legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.
The "undesirable" organization law, adopted in May 2015 and since updated, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States.
In 2017, the Russian government placed RFE/RL's Russian Service on the "foreign agents" list, along with six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services and Current Time. The Russian Service of VOA was also added to the list. At the end of 2020, the legislation was modified again to allow the Russian government to include individuals, including foreign journalists, on the "foreign agent" list and to impose restrictions on them.