What You Have to Do to Be a “Foreign Agent” in Russia

Darya Apahonchich. The inscription reads: “Not only a body, but also a person.” Courtesy of Kommersant via Ms. Apahonchich’s Facebook page

Аn “agent” due to wages: foreign agent status threatens teachers
Oleg Dilimbetov and Marina Litvinova
Kommersant
April 7, 2021

A job at a foreign institute of higher education or a salary from a foreign employer can be grounds for obtaining the status of a so-called foreign agent. This transpired during the the hearing of a lawsuit brought against the Justice Ministry by Petersburg teacher and activist Darya Apahonchich. She had requested that the ministry specify the reasons it had forcibly registered her as a “private individual acting as a foreign mass media outlet functioning as a foreign agent.” The ministry provided the court with written proof of her employment at a French college [in Petersburg] and the Russian branch of the International Red Cross. The ministry confirmed that the “foreign funding” received by a potential “foreign agent” does not necessarily have to have anything to do with subsequent “dissemination of information” or “political activity.”

Ms. Apahonchich was placed on the register of so-called individual media foreign agents on December 28, 2020, along with three journalists and the human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov. At the time, the Justice Ministry did not explain what specific reasons had caused them to assign her this status. In March, Ms. Apahonchich filed a lawsuit in Petersburg’s Lenin District Court, claiming that the obligations imposed on her by the Justice Ministry due to the new status violated her rights under the Russian Constitution and the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). On April 5, during a preliminary hearing of the lawsuit, Ms. Apahonchich was informed of the Justice Ministry’s objections to her claims and finally learned the reasons she had been entered into the register.

The ministry told the court that the woman [sic] had received foreign money transfers from Sweden, Germany, France and Finland. As Ms. Apahonchich explained, these were official fees for participation in festivals and exhibitions and her work as a teacher.

Thus, she was paid 35 thousand rubles by the Finnish Museum of Photography.  She received Another 112 thousand rubles from the French college [in Petersburg], where she taught Russian. She received about 60 thousand rubles from friends via the PayPal transfer system, and these transfers were expedited by Deutsche Bank (Germany). [That is, Ms. Apahonchich had received the fantastic sum of approximately 2,220 euros at current exchange rates — TRR.] In addition, Ms. Apahonchich was imputed with having received bank transfers from her employer, the Russian branch of the International Red Cross. The Justice Ministry stated that the source of these funds was Norway, and the intermediary was Sweden. The activist herself claims that she performed work at the Red Cross under a [Russian] presidential grant.

As for “dissemination of information,” the Justice Ministry pointed out that Ms. Apahonchich had reposted on social networks the article “Feminist Fairy Tales: Princesses Fighting the Patriarchy,” published by Radio Liberty (which has been deemed a so-called foreign agent media outlet by the Russian authorities). The ministry also told the court about the YouTube channel “Feminists Explain,” where Ms. Apahonchich has discussed the topic of gender equality, and her article about domestic violence, published on the website Colta.ru. In addition, the woman [sic] had appealed on social networks for solidarity with the defendants in the case of the Network (deemed a terrorist organization in the Russian Federation and banned) and LGBT activist Yulia Tsvetkova.

“The list of my sins is long but honorable: I taught Russian as a foreign language, participated in international festivals, and voiced solidarity with  the regime’s victims. Yes, I also accepted financial assistance from friends from abroad,” Ms. Apahonchich said when asked to comment on the Justice Ministry’s position. “It is clear that they brought the house down on me for solidarity: for solidarity pickets, for public discussions with friends. The situation was not what it is now: everyone seems to have gone off the rails. We’re in trouble, we need help.”

Her lawyer Alexander Peredruk noted that the Justice Ministry had not even tried to prove to the court that there was a connection between the foreign funds received by his client and her activism.

“Based on the Justice Ministry’s position, if you publish something on social networks, it does not matter whether you receive foreign funds directly or indirectly. And it is very difficult to independently monitor the matter: when collaborating with an LLC, you cannot know for certain whether it receives foreign money,” the lawyer said. “The Justice Ministry argues that the separately existing evidence of receiving funds from abroad and publishing on social networks is enough. They have not tried to establish a direct connection between them.”

The Justice Ministry told Kommersant that the law sets quite clear criteria for inclusion in the register. In the case of “individual media foreign agents,” it is sufficient to “distribute news reports and materials intended for an unlimited number of persons,” as well as to receive “money and (or) other property” from foreign states, organizations and nationals, or “from Russian legal entities receiving money from these sources.” To obtain the status of an “individual foreign agent,” it is enough to receive “foreign” money and “distribute news reports and materials” created by a “foreign agent media outlet” or “participate in the creation” of such “news reports and materials.”

“The legislation specifies neither the need for an obligatory link between the receipt of foreign funds and the dissemination of news reports and materials, nor evidence of the individual’s political activity,” the Justice Ministry confirmed to Kommersant.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Oleg Kotelnikov: La mort en rose

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 90 x 90 cm, oil on canvas

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose
23 October 2020 – 5 December 2020
Curated by Marina Alvitr and Katya Kabalina

Oleg Kotelnikov (b.1958) gained fame in the 1980s as a member of the New Artists, a group founded in 1982 by Timur Novikov.

The show features fifty graphic works, produced in 2020, which continue the upbeat Petersburg necrorealist tradition. “When we are born, we start dancing, and it is the dance of death.” For the artist, a work of art is the movement of life, a set of accidents and overwrites, a “punk scream” here and now.

Oleg says, “Art is contemporary (with time), it reflects time. Art that does not reflect its time is not contemporary.”

To contextualize the era and tell about the culture that Oleg and his friends shaped when a new world was emerged, the show will also feature videos and documentary archives. Buratinovka, an installation produced in collaboration with Irina Venskaya, attempts to interpret these archives creatively.

In addition to Kotelnikov’s works and the collaboration with Venskaya, the exhibition features Kotelnikov’s collaborations with Yevgeny Yufit.

[…]

Source: ART4 Museum

АRТ4 Museum
Khlynovskii tupik, 4, Moscow
Subway stations: Arbatskaya, Tverskaya and Pushkinskaya
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 8 pm
Tickets cost 300 rubles
https://www.art4.ru/

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La Mort en Rose. ART4 Museum, Moscow. Exhibition view

 

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

Seven Poems by Oleg Kotelnikov

1.

the page
of history
is blank
the growth
of a plant
is plain
the sides
of each
scene
scratched
and starred

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

 

2.

the devil walks the line
upright
wash your hands before you dine
at night

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

3.

thunder over the field no rain
the crowbar burns in the chief’s hand
blood curdles in blue veins
a carrot is stuck in dear loins
the enemy won’t get their screws
into the junk food stew

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

 

4.

the happiest minutes
happen before and after riots

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

 

5.

nature, not the tokens of power,
nourishes water and partly
inspires with thoughts of liberty
the people living in it
in times of turmoil and bad weather

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

6.

in the temple of the Lord
in the temple of the arts
a virgin in underwear
indulged her whims insensibly
two for one
one in three
dimensions
God

 

Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 86 x 61 cm, acrylic, tempera, paper

7.

like circles of hell on the water
the traces of people disperse
a ship is going down
it is judgment day on board
there is only one direction
up towards chiaroscuro

All images courtesy of Art4 Museum. Poems selected and translated by the Russian Reader