Russia's decision to label the country's only major independent pollster has restricted independent civil society in Russia, said the EU's top diplomat. More than 140 NGOs have been listed as "foreign agents."
The EU's foreign policy chief on Monday urged Russia's justice ministry to reconsider designating independent pollster Levada Center a "foreign agent," two weeks ahead of key parliamentary elections.
A spokesperson for Federica Mogherini, the EU's top diplomat, said that with the ministry decisions, "the restrictions on independent civil society in the Russian Federation became tighter."
"We call once again on the Russian authorities to reconsider their decisions on branding Russian NGOs as 'foreign agents,' which is clearly aimed at restricting their independence and threatening their very existence," the spokesperson added in a statement.
On Monday, the justice ministry formally labeled the country's only major independent a "foreign agent," a term used to describe organizations Russia deems as applying to those receiving foreign funding and engaging in political activities for foreign powers.
"The recognition of the organization as a non-commercial body performing the functions of a foreign agent was established in an unscheduled document check," said the justice ministry in a statement.
Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, told AFP news agency that the consequences of the decision will be "devastating" for the agency.
"This practically means the imposition of political censorship and the impossibility of independent polls," Gudkov said. "It's the typical behavior of this repressive regime."
More than 140 NGO's have been listed in Russia's "Foreign Agents Registry" since the law went into effect in 2012.
ls/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)