MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the closure of Memorial International, a prominent human rights organization, in the latest blow to the country’s shrinking civil society.
Memorial International studies historical abuses by the former Soviet Union and offers support to its victims. The group’s lawyer, Tatiana Glushkova, confirmed the ruling to CNN and said the group would appeal the decision.
“The real reason for Memorial’s closure is that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t like Memorial’s work rehabilitating the victims of Soviet terror,” Glushkova told CNN.
The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia requested Memorial International be liquidated in November.
The group was accused of repeatedly breaking the law for failing to mark all its publications with a compulsory “foreign agent” warning. Moscow had designated the group a foreign agent in 2016, using a law targeting organizations receiving international funding.
The group’s representatives argued there were no legal grounds for its closure, and critics say the Russian government targeted Memorial for political reasons.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov was one of the group’s original founders and the first honorary chairman of the Memorial Society.
The Supreme Court’s decision was not unexpected.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a speech earlier this month, accused Memorial of repeatedly supporting groups that are blacklisted as “as terrorist and extremist organizations.”
“Its violations were blatant,” he said. However, Putin did add that Memorial was “indisputably” one of Russia’s most “reputable” organizations.