Statement on the Designation of Bellingcat as an 'Undesirable Organisation' in Russia

July 15, 2022

Today, Russia’s General Prosecutor announced that Bellingcat’s activity is henceforth formally designated as “undesirable on Russian territory”. In the same announcement, our Russian investigative partner, The Insider (Russia), was also added to the list of undesirable organisations.

The only motivation listed in the Russian government’s decision was that Bellingcat, along with The Insider, “posed a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.”

We decry this absurd decision of the Russian authorities, and struggle to understand how an independent collective of two dozen open-source researchers may pose a threat to the foundations of the world’s largest country. At the same time, this was not an unexpected designation, as the growing list of so-called “undesirable organisations” already includes numerous international and Russian media and human rights organisations whose only culpability has been that they have fearlessly investigated government wrongdoing, human rights violations, and corruption in the Russian Federation.

It is apparent to us that this designation pursues the goal of discouraging Russian citizens from using and promoting Bellingcat’s past and future investigations, and from intimidating other media with presence in Russia from cooperating with or even referencing our work. We will be sympathetic to those Russian-based media that may choose to not report on Bellingcat’s future work.

The Russian government’s designation comes at a moment of total throttling of free speech in Russia in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At such a dark time for free media, Bellingcat has a particular responsibility, including to its hundreds of thousands of readers in Russia, to not succumb to censorship attempts.

We will continue to offer solutions to readers in Russia who wish to access our website, which was blocked by court order on March 16.

We accept the Russian government’s designation as direct evidence of the importance, relevance and effectiveness of our investigations. We will continue unabated our investigative work which seeks to shed light on wrongdoing globally, including in Russia.