MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) – Russian officials on Wednesday visited the offices of the Levada Center pollster in Moscow for an inspection, in what critics claim is part of an ongoing state crackdown on the activities of non-governmental organizations in Russia.
The pollster, named after the first Russian professor of sociology Yury Levada, said on Wednesday state prosecutors, tax inspectors and Justice Ministry representatives were looking through its documents.
“Details of the inspection are not clear to me, but the inspectors themselves claim it is taking place as scheduled,” the organization’s director Lev Gudkov told RIA Novosti.
The officials have requested the NGO to provide a large number of documents, he added.
Gudkov assumed the inspection is part of an ongoing campaign of harassment of NGOs in Russia, with hundreds having been recently checked by state agencies. The campaign followed the introduction of a new law in November 2012 requiring NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaged in political activities to register as “foreign agents,” a term synonymous with spies in Russian.
Denis Volkov, a Levada Center researcher, confirmed to the Moscow News that the organization has received some funding from abroad. Gudkov noted Levada does not consider its research work as political, and therefore has no plan to register as “a foreign agent.”
One of Russia’s largest independent pollsters, Levada Center conducts a range of surveys and research, including statistics on the approval ratings of senior political figures and parties and popular opinion.
On Wednesday, prosecutors also made a second inspection of the INDEM think tank in Moscow, its head Georgy Satarov, who was once an aide to Russia’s then President Boris Yeltsin, told Gazeta.ru.