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MacArthur Foundation closes Moscow office under new Russian laws

New Russian laws that allow authorities to have a say over non-governmental organizations have forced the MacArthur Foundation to close its Moscow office, the group announced Monday.

The Associated Press reported in May that Russia passed a law allowing authorities to shut down an organization that posed a threat to the constitutional order of the Russian Foundation.

Another law requires NGOs to register as foreign agents if they receive any funding from abroad or and “engage in political activities,” MacArthur President Julia M. Stasch said in a statement.

“We are entirely independent of the United States government and receive no funding from it,” her statement said. “We have never supported political activities or other actions that could reasonably be construed as meeting the definition of ‘undesirable.’ ”

Russian authorities also recently voted to put The MacArthur Foundation on a “list” that could help oust the group, Stasch said.

“These laws, public statements by Russian legislators . . . make it clear that the Russian government regards MacArthur’s continued presence as unwelcome,” the statement said.

MacArthur, which works in roughly 50 countries, established an office in Russia in 1992 and has awarded about $173 million in grants for higher education, human rights and the prevention of nuclear weapon usage.

Now, as it closes down in Russia, Stasch said civil society organizations that rely on MacArthur’s funding could face a serious risk.

“The MacArthur Foundation is committed to helping to make truly substantial progress on some of the world’s most profound problems. We are saddened that it is not possible to do so in Russia at this time,” she said in the statement.