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Prosecutors checking Levada Center pollster as part of NGO inspections

by Anna Arutunyan at 24/04/2013 12:52

Russian prosecutors, tax officials, and police are checking the offices of Levada Center, an independent polling organization, as part of a routine inspection of NGOs across the country, a source at the organization told The Moscow News on Wednesday.

“They are checking the basic documents, the charter, financial documents and tax [declarations],” Levada Center spokesman Denis Volkov said.

The checks, which began at about 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, are being carried out at hundreds of NGOs across the country under a law that that makes it mandatory for political NGOs receiving funding from abroad to register as political agents.

The law went into effect in late 2012. The checks began in late March, and have affected, among others, the Golos election watchdog, the Memorial Human Rights Society, and Transparency International.

According to Volkov, this is the first time that the pollster has been checked. He said that some of its financing comes from abroad.

“Of course we have various sources, foreign foundations and universities. We have more than 100 various sources, which includes government financing. There are foreign sources.”

But the Levada Center has not registered as a foreign agent, nor does it plan to, because it does not engage in political work, he said.

“We’re working as before, since we’re not doing politics, but research.”

The organization was notified about the checks on Tuesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Levada Center’s director, Lev Gudkov, told RIA Novosti that the checks were unfounded, since prosecutors did not state a reason or cite any instance of the organization violating the law, which would serve as a basis for the checks.

The Levada Center is a non-government research and polling organization that has conducted sociological research and regular public opinion polls in Russia since 1988. Its polls regularly include approval ratings for leading politicians, including President Vladimir Putin.

Similar checks took place Wednesday morning at the INDEM Foundation, its head, Georgy Satarov, told Gazeta.ru. INDEM (Information for Democracy) is one of the first Russian NGOs specializing in researching a variety of social and political issues including corruption in Russia.

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