Moscow authorities have sealed off the Russia office of human rights group Amnesty International, the group’s director in Russia said Wednesday.
Amnesty International Russia Director Sergei Nikitin said employees found the office door broken and fitted with new locks when they arrived at work on Wednesday morning.
Photographs showed the office door sealed up with an official notice from Moscow city authorities. Amnesty International said in a statement that the alarm system and electricity supply to the office appeared to have been switched off.
The Moscow government’s property department told television channel Dozhd that Amnesty International’s rental contract had expired and that any staff members who re-entered the premises would be breaking the law.
Amnesty International has rented the office from the Moscow city government for over 20 years and was always punctual paying rent and utility bills, Nikitin said.
“Given the current climate for civil society work in Russia, there are clearly any number of plausible explanations, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions,” Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said in a statement.
Human rights organizations in Russia have complained of being subject to official pressure in recent years, including intimidation of their staffs and legislation regulating the operation of non-governmental organizations.
In a public statement issued Tuesday, Amnesty International in Russia protested the treatment of imprisoned opposition activist Ildar Dadin, who has accused prison guards of torturing him. Amnesty International also has been highly critical of the Kremlin over Russia’s yearlong bombing campaign in Syria.