How does the geopolitical situation affect the work of CSOs in Russia?

Unsubscribing from recurrent payments and working normally: how Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been surviving the last few days.

On 24 February Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to launch “a special military operation” in Ukraine.Economic sanctions followed from various countries. The Agency for Social Information (ASI) has ascertained how this, and the status of donors has affected the work of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).


What about fundraising?


“In recent days, we have seen donors unsubscribing from recurrent payments. Globally, there has not been a heavy drop in charitable donations, within the norm”, Sofia Zhukova Director of the Need Help Foundation told ASI.


The Oxygen Charity Foundation reported that its collection counters for medicines vital to children with cystic fibrosis “stood still”.


“What will happen next? The medicines that the guys are waiting for may disappear from Russian pharmacies. We need to buy them ahead of time” they wrote.


On 28th February, World Rare Disease Day, Maya Sonina, Director of the Oxygen Foundation, reported that about 60 donations had been received by their wards. The Foundation continues to work to the best of its ability.


The CSO sector in Russia is experiencing huge difficulties today, wrote Alexandra Babkina, the head of Dobro project.


“What’s even more difficult is that charitable donations are being reduced. The increase in the cost of treatment and work of charity programs alongside the growth in requests for help could cost the lives of our wards,” stated Babkina.


She urged partners, donors, and friends to continue to help charitable foundations.


The Rus Foodbank joined the work of the We Are Together headquarters from the beginning of the evacuation of Donbas residents on the 19th February. “In this time, the foundation has transferred 350 tons of food, essential goods for delivery to temporary accommodation facilities”, said Yulia Nazarova, President of the Rus Foodbank.


“The whole country is stocking up food, clothes, and hygiene products, and companies are doing the same. The need for commodity aid is growing and it is still difficult to predict the future of financial aid”, Yulia said.


Break with abroad


Due to the current geopolitical situation, partners from the Czech Republic stopped working with Russian wheelchair manufacturer Kinesis. They will no longer supply wheels for wheelchairs. This was reported on the media site Such Matters by the founder of Kinesis and trustee of the Prodvizhenie Foundation Olga Barabanova.


“We received wheels by land but now the borders are closed. We are already looking for suppliers in China because no one in Russia makes such small wheels with additional hand rims that a child can hold on to”, Barabanova was quoted in Such Matters.


She also said that the Foundation’s donations have “sharply decreased”.


The Leukaemia Foundation reported that due to sanctions it is difficult to deliver bone marrow to Russian patients waiting for transplants.


Olga Germanenko, the head of the Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Families Foundation, wrote that the supply of drugs to Russia for children and adults with SMA will not stop.


“Last week, and again today, we contacted the Circle of Good Foundation. All three drug manufacturing companies (Spinraza, Risdiplam, Zolgensma) assured us that supplies to Russia are not expected to stop at the moment”, Germanenko noted.


Switching to other social networks


On 25th February, Roskomnadzor, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, partially restricted access to Facebook in the country.


According to the agency, the social network was recognised as “involved in the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens” due to restrictions on four Russian accounts.


After that, posts with links to other social networks began to appear on the Facebook pages of Russian CSOs to avoid contact details being lost.


All together


Director of the Zhivoy Charitable Foundation Victoria Agadzhanova told ASI critical changes for them will be visible later, in seven or ten days.


“So far, the most critical changes for us are the decline in the role of social networks as our main audience is on Facebook, a decrease in the percentage of donations via ApplePay, GooglePay and, of course, the inability to receive funding from abroad. Our donors live all over the world, and we hope that at least PayPal won’t be shut down”, Victoria said.


According to Sofia Zhukova, nothing has changed in the Foundation’s operations, and they continue to work as before.


“CSOs are waiting for our help, and we cannot leave the beneficiaries of these organisations without support. Our main task is to do what we exist for: supporting CSOs and civil society, providing people with the opportunity to donate, and informing them about how to engage in charitable activities” concluded the director of the Need Help Foundation.




Translated by Ysabelle Smith

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