Golos director Liliya Shibanova (Reuters)

A prominent Russian watchdog that monitors elections has been fined for refusing to register as a "foreign agent".

Golos, the country's only independent election monitoring group, has become the first victim under a controversial new law that rights group said restricts freedom of expression, assembly and association in the country.

The watchdog has been fined 300,000 roubles ($10,000) for failing to comply with the foreign agents law. The Russian parliament passed a bill in November which forces non-governmental organisations that allegedly engage in political activities to label themselves foreign agents if they receive funding from outside Russia.

Golos, which was part-funded by the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) - later shut down by Russian authorities - received €50,000 (£42,000) in award money from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, which backs people persecuted because of their opinions.

Golos director Liliya Shibanova told RIA state news agency that the group did not receive foreign funding since the law took effect. "I don't know on what basis they're doing this," she said.

In March, Russian activist Irina Yasin, former head of the development of public communications in the Russian Central Bank and a director of the Open Russia foundation established by jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, joked about the foreign agents law.

"I'm actually grateful to Putin," she said at a Chatham House event in London. "He has done so much to squeeze out foreign funds that local NGOs were forced to find ways to self-fund themselves. So I say 'Well done, Putin!'"

Earlier this week, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports that analysed the Kremlin's crackdown on freedom of expression, assembly and association which they said was "unprecedented" in the country's post-Soviet history.

Legislative changes towards more restrictive measures have been the hallmark of Russia's President Vladimir Putin's new term which started in May 2012.

Golos reported violations in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential vote.