US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Russian Supreme Court's decision to close Memorial International is as an "affront" to human rights.

The move came after Russian President Putin accused the group of advocating for
The move came after Russian President Putin accused the group of advocating for "terrorist and extremist organisations". (Reuters)

The United States has condemned the closure by Russia's Supreme Court of the prominent rights group Memorial International.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday called the decision an "affront" to human rights.

"The persecution of International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center is an affront to their noble missions and to the cause of human rights everywhere," he said, referring to the group's sister organisation that also risks closure.

The decision, he added, "follows a year of rapidly shrinking space for independent civil society, media, and pro-democracy activists in Russia."

The ruling came after President Vladimir Putin accused the group of advocating for "terrorist and extremist organisations".

READ MORE: Russia's Supreme Court orders closure of top rights group Memorial

International backlash

The court ruling sparked international backlash from Europe as well.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Memorial International's dissolution was a "terrible loss" for Russia, adding the decision was "deeply worrying" for the future of historical research and the defence of human rights.

Germany called the court's decision "more than incomprehensible" and said it went against international obligations to protect fundamental civil rights.

Marija Pejcinovic Buric, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said the "devastating news" meant Russia appeared to be moving " further away from our common European standards and values".

Supporters say its closure signals the end of an era in Russia's post-Soviet democratisation process, which began 30 years ago this month.

Group to appeal decision

Judge Alla Nazarova ordered the closure of Memorial International and its regional branches after prosecutors accused the organisation of failing to mark its publications with a "foreign agent" label, the tag for groups receiving overseas funds.

"Disgrace! Disgrace!" supporters shouted in court after the ruling.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Memorial International said it would appeal and find "legal ways" to continue its work.

"Memorial is not an organisation, it is not even a social movement," the statement said. 

"Memorial is the need of the citizens of Russia to know the truth about its tragic past, about the fate of many millions of people."

READ MORE: Putin signs laws against 'disrespecting' authorities, fake news

Source: TRTWorld and agencies