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Russia Launches ‘Foreign Agent’ Probe Into Yeltsin Center

The Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg. Vladislav Falshivomonetchik (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Russia has launched a preliminary investigation into whether to designate former President Boris Yeltsin’s history museum and cultural center as a “foreign agent,” a senior Justice Ministry official said Thursday. 

Deputy justice minister Oleg Sviridenko announced the probe into the Yeltsin Center during a session with federal lawmakers on Thursday, according to the state-run news agency TASS. 

“I don’t remember which of the deputies sent us such a request, but we are conducting an investigation," Sciridenko told the lower-house State Duma’s commission that investigates foreign interference.

Founded by the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center nonprofit in Russia’s fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg in 2015, the Yeltsin Center is billed as the country’s only museum celebrating democracy and the freedoms of the 1990s.

The Yeltsin Center told state-run news agency RIA Novosti that it does not believe there is any reason for it to be labeled a “foreign agent.”

Just a day after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, the Yeltsin Center publicly called for an “immediate stop” to military hostilities. 

However, less than two months later law enforcement officials forced the center to take down its anti-war statement.

The pro-Kremlin filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, who is a vocal war supporter, had previously called for designating the Yeltsin Center a “foreign agent.”

Russia has designated more than 550 people and organizations “foreign agents” since laws used to crack down on the opposition and independent media were introduced more than a decade ago. 

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