See the interview on YouTube (in Russian)

In August 2014, the Freedom of Information Foundation was included on the list of “foreign agents”. How did this affect the activities of your organisation?
First of all, it changed the format of our work. We realised that it would make our work difficult, should we continue to operate as a Russian NGO. Our activities were almost paralysed by constant audits. We had to apply to the courts in order to appeal the results of the audits as well as decisions about our inclusion on the list of "foreign agents". Therefore, we decided to change the format of our activities. Now there are two organisations which exist within our project – an NGO abroad and a commercial organisation in Russia as well as a number of people working as civil society activists in Russia. The most important thing is not what has changed but what we have managed to preserve. We managed to preserve almost all the projects we have been implementing since 2004. Most importantly, we have preserved all our civil society activities.
The list of "foreign agents" has been constantly updated. The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation has included more than 40 organisations on it so far. What advice would you give to those NGOs which were ex delicto included on the list – just like the Freedom of Information Foundation?
As I already mentioned, we switched to the preservation of our activities, as these were them which were targeted by the laws passed in 2012 and supplemented by even more restrictions later. We knew that it would be hard to counter those, should we continue to operate as a Russian NGO, – if not impossible at all. Therefore, we would recommend to the organisations to primarily focus on the content of their activities rather than on the form. We must try to do everything to be removed from the operation of the legislation on "foreign agents" and that of NGOs. There are other legal forms and jurisdictions which make it possible to operate in Russia. For instance, one can register as an NGO in the EU. Finally, one can operate as an individual civil society activist being out of the coverage of these laws.
Can you please tell us a little bit more about successful projects of your Foundation – "I Have a Right to Know” and "RosOtvet"?  
The Project "I Have a Right to Know" has been running for years. This is an educational project, an Internet-based resource, which lucidly explains to the citizens how they can execute their right to access information. The website provides both negative and positive examples of judicial and administrative practices as well as the examples of executing the right to access information in order to improve the quality of life in the country. All the information is available at the project’s website. In its turn, our new project – "RosOtvet" – allows everybody to send a request to the authorities from the website Rosotvet.Ru. Everybody, who wants to make such a request but for some reason cannot formulate it correctly, receives assistance from our lawyers. They help to formulate the request in a legal language and forward it to the competent authority, which shall consider it in accordance with a special procedure. Since "RosOtvet" is inter alia a media, the requests published there must be considered within the 7-day period – in contrast to ordinary requests, which are usually considered within 30 days. By shortening this period, we provide more opportunities for citizens to obtain information that is published on our website – along with a number of requests and responses to it. Through these questions and answers, we get a lot of information that often generates high levels of media interest.
Which new projects are you planning to implement in 2015?
First of all, these are legal projects. Due to increase in espionage cases in Russia, our team has been actively involved in the defense proceedings in courts on the defense side. In addition, we will continue to develop our legal and educational projects. We would also like to make "RosOtvet" a crowdsourcing project. In fact, our lawyers sometimes experience a lack of time and resources to process such a large number of requests. Therefore, our goal is to ensure that the project reaches a broader community, so that lawyers from other regions will be able to participate in it as volunteers and help citizens to issue proper requests for information by that.
How do you think: What topics are currently the most relevant ones for discussions within the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum?
I think that a very important topic is the continuation of the civic activism in Russia. There is no doubt that the authorities did their best to limit such activities. The recent NGO-related laws were passed with the intention to keep the civil society activities under governmental control. We should take every effort to preserve projects, civil society groups, and NGOs which exist already as well as to create conditions for evolvement of new organisations, groups, and projects. We often reflect on how to preserve what we already have, but we also need to think about how to make sure that there is something new coming.
What would you like to wish to the Forum members?
I often say an optimistic expression: ‘Everything is going to be alright.’ At this occasion, I would like to wish all the best to the Forum members.

The interview was shot on 20 March 2015 by Gleb Belichenko (Freedom of Information Foundation)