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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NGO Temporarily Closes Doors After Office Raid

A U.S.-based nongovernmental organization will halt operations after a police raid on its Moscow office last week.

The Educated Media Foundation -- the legal successor of Internews, which trains journalists and works with many media outlets -- will temporarily halt its activities after Interior Ministry officers confiscated documents and computers from its office, Manana Aslamazian, executive director of the organization, said Friday.

"We will continue with the seminars we had planned for April, but we will be doing nothing as of May," Aslamazian said.

About 20 officers from the Interior Ministry's economic crimes department locked themselves in the organization's office in the Central House of Journalists for nearly 11 hours Wednesday during the raid, Aslamazian said.

Aslamazian said police were linking the search to her detention at Sheremetyevo Airport in January for failing to declare excess cash, but that she believes it is linked to NGO restrictions.

A new NGO law, which came into force a year ago, increased the amount of paperwork that NGOs must keep and required them to reregister under stringent new guidelines. The law was adopted after President Vladimir Putin said he would not tolerate foreign funds being used by NGOs for political activities. Foreign-connected NGOs played key roles in regime changes in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004.

Internews is a media development organization based in California. Its Moscow office, which is registered as a Russian NGO, works with a variety of media outlets, including NTV television.

Aslamazian said she did not know for how long the organization would stop its activities.

"They have thousands of documents and eight or nine servers to go through," she said. "It could take a very long time."

Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.