Russian harm reduction workers under attack


Russian harm reduction workers under attack

6 July 2016

By Peter Sarosi - Drug Reporter

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation, the only harm reduction NGO working in Moscow, has been declared a foreign agent by the Russian government.

The Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF) is the only NGO that provides sterile needles and syringes to injecting drug users in Moscow. This fact seems incredible, when you consider that Russia is a country with a rapidly growing HIV epidemic, which is largely driven by the sharing of injecting equipment. ARF workers are up against government hostility, lack of domestic financial resources, the retreat of international donors, and public apathy, when they go out onto the streets of Moscow every day to help marginalised young people.

We have been allies with ARF for several years. In 2012 we produced a movie about the organisation, to promote their fundraising campaign on Global Giving. A few years later, when they published content on their website about the effectiveness of opiate substitution treatment, the government blocked the site. Drugreporter was happy to help and we have been hosting their website to this day.

Unfortunately, it seems this was not enough for Putin’s government. ARF was recently included in the list of so called “foreign agents” - that is, non-governmental organisations that the Russian government regards as presenting a threat to national security because they receive funding from international donors. Inclusion on this list means stigma for an NGO, to a degree which makes normal operation and cooperation with other organisations almost impossible.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Nicolas Loubet