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U.S. Condemns 'Foreign' Branding Of Russian Independent Polling Firm

The U.S. State Department has condemned Russia's designation of the nation's only independent polling organization as a "foreign agent."

Russia's decision came this week after the Levada Center, a respected pollster, published its latest election survey indicating a drop in the ruling United Russia party's ratings. Russia holds parliamentary elections on September 18.

"We obviously believe that the action taken against the Levada Center is unwarranted," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on September 6.

"Polling important tool in any country that seeks to live by democratic standards of openness, accountability in government, and freedom of scientific inquiry," he said. "These are principles Russia should seek to promote...and not silence."

"The Levada Center is in fact independent and self-sufficient," said Toner. "We have worked with the Levada Center... It has an excellent reputation."

Toner said Russia has now branded 141 organizations as foreign agents, including groups working to protect the environment, fight the spread of HIV, and promote good governance and freedom of expression.

"We're concerned about the scope of a law that seems to put at risk [nongovernmental organizations] and other democratically minded civic organizations within Russia," he said.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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