The Russian Ministry of Justice on Friday (8 October) designated the international research collective Bellingcat as a "foreign agent". In addition, two companies and nine journalists, one of whom works for BBC Russia, have also been labelled as such.
The decision means that the organisations are under strict surveillance by the Russian authorities. They have to state in their communications that they have this label and are subject to strict financial supervision.
In a reaction to the decision, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins tweeted, "Russia considers Bellingcat such a threat that we have been declared a foreign agent." Higgins, interpreted the qualification as "the Russian Nobel Prize".
The ministry's decision came hours after Russian journalist, Dmitri Muratov, won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. He received the prestigious award for his "courageous struggle" for freedom of expression in his homeland.
The Kremlin says that such steps are required against citizens and organisations financed from abroad and that carry out political activities against Russian interests. Bellingcat is registered in the Netherlands. However, Western governments say that labelling it as a "foreign agent" is intended to impede the work of journalists and restrict dissent.