Foreign agents:
individuals and FA status
Q:
How can an individual be recognized as an FA?
A:
An individual-FA is an individual included by the MoJ in one of the two registries of entities performing the FA functions. An individual can either be recognized as a FA, or as a FA acting as a media outlet (mass media-FA).

The first registry will be created on the basis of the Federal Law of the RF No. 272-FZ "On Measures Affecting Persons Related to Violations of Basic Human Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the RF," dated 12/28/2012 (hereinafter referred to as Law No. 272-FZ), which was amended on 12/30/2020. An individual can be included in this registry if he/she meets two conditions:

  • carries out political activities or collects information regarding the military field and military technologies; and
  • receives monetary funds or other property or organizational and methodological assistance from a foreign source.
The second registry is for mass media-FAs. The registry includes both individuals and organizations. The MoJ maintains both registrys.

An individual can be included in this registry if he/she:

  • disseminates messages and materials intended for a broad range of recipients; and
  • receives funds and/or other property from a foreign source.
Q:
Why would an individual be recognized as an FA?
A:
According to the Law on Mass Media, an individual can be included in the FA registry if he/she publishes information in mass media or distributes information to a wide range of people via the internet while receiving funds from foreign sources.

According to Law No. 272-FZ, an individual can be recognized as a FA if/she he is engaged in political activities or collects information that can be used against the security of Russia. The FSB approves the list of such information. The second condition for the inclusion of an individual in the registry under Law No. 272-FZ is the existence of a foreign source influencing the individual in question. The term "influence" includes the receipt of money or property, or organizational and methodological assistance. Although there is no legal definition, "organizational and methodological assistance" could mean, for instance:

  • creation and systematization of materials, manuals, and recommendations;
  • conducting training events; and
  • provision of consulting and methodological services.

When the state authorities create a precedent of establishing when an individual receives organizational and methodological assistance, the overall approach will be clearer.

Q:
What are the consequences for an individual who is included in one of the FA registries?
A:
1. Mandatory marking (labels) relating to FA activities must be made on all of the materials developed by the individual

The Media-FA Registry: An individual must indicate his/her FA status on all messages and materials; produced by such individuals.
The Law № 272-FZ Registry: An individual must indicate his/her FA status when carrying out political activities or collecting information regarding items on the list to be approved by FSB when trying to contact:

  • government agencies;
  • local government bodies;
  • public associations; and
  • educational organizations.
2. Mandatory reference in media:

The Media-FA Registry: Any reference to this individual or his/her activities in the media should be accompanied by the label indicating FA status.
The Law № 272-FZ Registry: Any reference to this individual or his/her activities in media should be accompanied by the label indicating FA status.

3. Individual Obligations:
The Media-FA Registry:
  1. Establish a legal entity (organization) within 1 month from the date of inclusion in the media-FA registry.
  2. Submit a statement to the MoJ regarding compliance with requirement #1.
  3. Distribute materials/messages exclusively on behalf of the established legal entity.
  4. Submit quarterly reports on behalf of the legal entity to the MoJ.
  5. Conduct an annual audit of the organization.
The Law № 272-FZ Registry:
  1. Submit a report to the MoJ on activities and expenditure of funds every six months.
  2. Refrain from applying for positions in state agencies and local self-government bodies.
Q:
Can an individual be fired for being recognized as an FA?
A:
No, it is impossible to fire a person on the grounds that he/she was included in one of the FA registries. Only an employer may terminate an employment contract on the grounds provided by the RF Labor Code.

It is important to note that no one can be restricted in the exercise of his/her labor rights and freedoms, receipt of any benefits on the grounds of his/her membership (or non-membership) in public associations or any social groups, or on other grounds that are not related to the employee's performance.

Q:
If I received foreign money a year ago, and I have written a public post now, can I be recognized as an FA?
A:
The law does not provide any time-related restrictions regarding individuals.

An individual can submit an application to the MoJ for exclusion from the registry at any time "in the event of termination of activities related to performing FA functions." Upon discontinuing the receipt of foreign funding, an individua should be able to immediately apply for exclusion from the FA registry, and the MoJ is obliged to make a decision within 60 days.

Q:
My sister lives abroad and she sometimes sends me money. I use social networks and write articles in the media. Can I be recognized as a FA? How can I avoid it?
A:
It depends on the content of posts on social networks and articles in the media. If the MoJ or Prosecutor General's Office determine that the nature of the posts or publications falls under political activity and you have received money or other property from foreign sources, even from relatives, the MoJ has the right to recognize you as an FA.
Q:
I am a blogger. How do I organize my work so that I avoid being recognized as a FA? I want to remain active in public life. What can I do and what should I not do in order to avoid being recognized as a FA?
A:
It is impossible to guarantee that you will not be included in the FA registry, but it would be advisable to:

  • refrain from providing paid services to foreign entities (unfortunately, if you work for a foreign company, your chances of being included in the registry tend to increase); and
  • minimize political content in your blog (opinions about election candidates, criticism of government agencies - see definition of political activity).
Q:
I work for a foreign company, and I actively use social networks and sometimes share my opinion about politics. Do I risk being recognized as a FA and how can I avoid it?
A:
There is a risk of inclusion in the FA registry, as the existence of foreign funding and political activity, in the form of public discussion of issues that can be considered political, could lead the MoJ to recognize you as a FA.
Q:
I am a journalist working for a Russian newspaper. I'm not sure, but most likely foreign companies place ads here. Can I be recognized as a FA and is there a way to avoid it?
A:
Unfortunately, there is a risk of being recognized as a FA. Based on the legal requirements, the necessary prerequisites for FA status are present: the presence of foreign funding (it is feasible that your employer does receive funding from foreign sources, and therefore it can also be considered a foreign source), and there is also a sign of political activities in the form of public discussion of issues that fall under the definition of political activity.