Russia declares World Wildlife Fund and others 'foreign agents' - report

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Leonid Slutsky at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 13, 2023.

According to a Russian Justice Ministry release released to Interfax, the WWF received support from foreign sources.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) among several other organizations and entities were added to the Kremlin's registry of foreign agents, according to a Friday report from Russian media outlet Interfax. 

According to a Russian Justice Ministry release released to Interfax, the WWF received support from foreign sources.

"Under the guise of activities to protect nature and the environment and the biological diversity of species, representatives of the fund tried to influence the decisions of the executive and legislative authorities of the Russian Federation, hindered the implementation of industrial and infrastructure projects," the Justice Ministry reportedly wrote in its statement. "The fund disseminated negative information about decisions made by state bodies and their policies."

The other organization recently designated as a foreign agent is the Free Buryatia Foundation, an advocacy group focused on the Russian federal subject of Buryatia. The foundation is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. The group is openly pro-Ukraine and against the reign of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

According to Interfax's report of the Russian Justice Ministry's statements, the Free Buryatia Foundation disseminated false information about the Russian authorities and participated in the creation and distribution of materials by foreign agents. 

Individual Russian "foreign agents"

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address dedicated to the Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Russia, in this picture released February 23, 2023. (credit: SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL METZEL/POOL VIA REUTERS)

The Russian Justice Ministry also declared five high-profile Russian citizens to be foreign agents: Hockey player Danil Gubarev, economist Sergei Guriev, former head of Yandex.News Lev Gershenzon, politician Gennady Gudkov, and blogger Nika Wodwood.

Gubarev, who does not live in Russia, reportedly "distributed materials created by foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people."

The Russian Justice Ministry's release, according to Interfax, determined that Guriev "participated in the creation and dissemination of materials of foreign agents to an unlimited circle of people" and "spoke out against a special military operation in Ukraine."

Gershenzon has been very open about his stance on the Ukraine-Russia War and created the news aggregate website The True Story to collect information about the war. The website itself describes the war's beginnings as "Putin launch[ing] an unjustified military attack against Ukraine." The site was blocked in Russia.

Gudkov was charged with speaking negatively about the Russian military and speaking openly in support of Ukraine's war effort. 

Nika Wodwood's YouTube channel

Wodwood, an online activist, spoke negatively about the Russian military and promoted LGBT relations, according to Interfax. Per a 2019 report from The New York Times, Wodwood's YouTube channel covers "issues like her sex life, combating domestic violence, not shaving her legs and masturbation." These, according to the Times, very radical topics for Russian media.

Since the outbreak of the war, Wodwood has made content about her personal struggles in wartime. In one video, she refers to Russia's "repressive laws" when listing the trials and tribulations of Russian citizens during wartime. However, she takes care to point out that "all these things are, of course, absolutely incomparable with all the horror the Ukrainians face because of the war."

The Jewish Agency's status in Russia

There has been concern among the global Jewish community that Russia may deem some Jewish and Israeli organizations to be foreign entities as well. 

Russia expanded its definition of "foreign agents" in July 2022 to include "those who take part in any activity that authorities determine goes against Russia’s national interests or who receive support of any kind, not just money, from abroad," according to the Moscow Times.

Putin and rabbis (credit: Kremlin)

The Russian courts have yet to determine if the Jewish Agency’s activities in the country are considered as being done by a “Foreign Agent.” As a result, almost all active steps towards connecting Jews in the former Soviet Union countries have been frozen, The Jerusalem Post has learned. As published by the Post in late January, the Jewish Agency instructed its emissary in Belarus to stop its activities with regard to promoting aliyah (immigration to Israel). 

Zvika Klein contributed to this report.

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