Foreign agents:
public associations that operate without state registration
Q:
What is a public association that operates without state registration (UPA)? What makes it different from an informal group of citizens?
A:
Three college friends who meet every weekend to discuss the latest developments in their lives are not considered a public association. The same three friends who meet to exchange the latest news, discuss issues related to artificial intelligence, and agree on topics for the next meeting are also not considered a public association. If the three friends later decide to develop a charter and choose governing and auditing bodies for their group, they are considered to have established a UPA. However, Russian legislation does not clearly regulate the legal status of such an association.

On behalf of a UPA, it is possible to send proposals to state authorities or local governments, report this information on a website, launch PR campaigns, freely distribute information, conduct activities to protect common interests and achieve common goals, amongst other activities. To conduct financial and economic activities, such as acquiring money or other property in the name of the association or concluding contracts, the UPA would have to registry with the relevant state body as a legal entity.
Q:
On what grounds can a UPA be recognized as a FA?
A:
A public association that operates without state registration (UPA) may be recognized as a FA if it carries out political activities and receives property from foreign sources.

Since a UPA is not a legal entity and does not have either a bank account or the right to conclude contracts on its own behalf, it is doubtful that it could receive property from foreign sources. However, given that the law that allows for the recognition of UPAs as FAs was adopted in 2020 and there is no existing legal precedent, it is impossible to answer this question at this time. As part of the decision-making process, it is likely that government agencies will consider receipt of property from foreign sources by the founders, members, participants, and leaders of UPAs, or relevant transfers to their personal bank accounts.

Q:
We have a group for the protection of nature in our region that is not registered as a legal entity. Donations are provided by different people and organizations. I collect them for the group. Our donors frequently choose to remain anonymous. Could our group or its members be recognized as FAs and how can we avoid it?
A:
Yes, a UPA can also be recognized as a FA. Considering the vague nature of the legislation that allows for the recognition of such associations as FAs and the fact that it allows for broad interpretations, it is not yet clear how it might be applied in your case. One scenario is that you can be recognized as individual-FAs carrying out political activities and receiving funds from foreign sources, if it is proven that you have received money or property from a foreign source. For instance, a person who gave you a donation turned out to be a foreign subject. Alternatively, your group could be recognized as a UPA-FA: for example, if your group is described as an organization having its own name, description of activities, and management in publicly accessible materials (articles in the media, blogs and other publications). However, there is no existing legal precedent for such cases.
Q:
What obligations may arise from the assignment of the status of FA and who in the unregistered public association will be liable for the failure to comply?
ОТВЕТ:
UPAs included in the FA registry are required to submit quarterly reports to the MoJ. These reports should include special forms describing the property received from foreign sources and the purpose of its intended use, as well as how the assets were used and purpose of expenditures. The head of the association assumes responsibility for the reporting.

The UPA, including its head, founders, members, participants, and members of the governing bodies, are obliged to mark their materials and information about their activities, indicating their inclusion in the FA registry. Due to lack of existing practice, it is unclear how these requirements will be implemented.