Russia's Justice Ministry says its decision to place the independent national pollster the Levada Center on its official register of organizations "operating as foreign agents" was made due to financial support the pollster received from the United States.
TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying on September 6 that "the major part of financial support the Levada Center has received is from the United States, including the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and therefore it was added to the list of 'foreign agents.'"
The Russian Justice Ministry announced on September 5 that it had placed the Levada Center on its official register of organizations "operating as foreign agents," potentially threatening the existence of the widely respected research group.
The group is one of the largest Russian nongovernmental polling and sociological research organizations and has conducted surveys that might have irked Russian authorities.
A law adopted in 2012 requires any nongovernmental organization that receives funding from abroad and engages in political activity to formally register as a "foreign agent."
Russian and international human rights organizations have said the law was introduced to silence independent voices.
Amendments introduced to the law in 2014 allow the Justice Ministry to forcefully add NGOs to the list of "foreign agents." Failure to comply can result in heavy fines and/or jail time.