EU urges Russia to reconsider listing of Levada pollster as ‘foreign agent’

A war for hearts and minds, everywhere. Moscow, 2014. [Shutterstock]

The European Union’s foreign policy chief called on Russia to reconsider its decision to designate the major independent pollster the Levada Centre a “foreign agent”, a spokeswoman said in a note yesterday (6 September).

The Russian Justice Ministry said on Monday it had included Levada in the list of foreign agents, a term describing organisations seen by Russia as engaging in political activities on behalf of foreign powers.

A spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was concerned by the move, particularly as it came just two weeks ahead of nationwide parliamentary elections.

“We call once again on the Russian authorities to reconsider their decisions on branding Russian non-governmental organisations as ‘foreign agents’, which is clearly aimed at restricting their independence and threatening their very existence,” the spokeswoman said in a note.

There are now 141 organisations Russia labels as foreign agents, the EU note said.

Levada is the most respected of Russia’s three main pollsters. While it routinely reports Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings in excess of 80%, it is widely seen as more independent than its state-run competitors, VTsIOM and FOM.

A law which considers NGOs as “foreign agents” for receiving financial, technical, consulting or other help from abroad, was met with a storm of criticism from rights activists in Russia and abroad.

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