According to a law approved by Putin last year, NGOs funded from abroad are required to register as "foreign agents," a term which critics say is synonmous with "spy," or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,000) for NGOs and up to 300,000 rubles ($10,000) for NGO directors. "Foreign agents" are not only international NGOs, such as WWF or Greenpeace, but also local NGOs that received some funds from abroad. It is the case of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East (RAIPON), that was closed down by the Ministry of Justice. RAIPON represents 41 indigenous peoples living in Russia, from Murmansk to Vladivostok. In this case the new law was simply used to prevent RAIPON to take part to the Arctic Council.
About 300 NGOs, according to rights activists’ figures, have been subjected since March to exhaustive checks by tax officials, Justice Ministry representatives and prosecutors. The following fines were defined by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as "an alarming indicator for the future of civil society in Russia".
Activists are simply arrested, as in the case of Alexei Gaskarov, arreste dafter taking part to an opposition march on May 2012. Gaskarov was active in the campaigns to defend the Khimki and Tsagovsky forests by fostering grassroots civic groups. In March 2013, Gaskarov was elected to the alternative People’s Council of Zhukovsky, thus receiving recognition from other residents of the town for his efforts. Change.org presents a petition to support his liberation.