Levada Centre refuses to register as a 'foreign agent'

14 May 2013 

Source: HRO.org (info
The Levada Centre will not register itself as a 'foreign agent.' "This is totally out of the question", the opinion poll centre's General Director Lev Gudkov announced to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The social scientists working at the centre are looking for ways to keep their operations going, but for the time being Gudkov "does not want to reveal his hand." As Grani.ru has reported, Gudkov disagrees with accusations that his organisation has been engaging in political activities. "Researching into politics is not the same as being engaged in it, in much the same way that curing a disease is not the same as suffering from it," he underlined.

"The authorities equate foreign funding with conspiring against national security and believe that all criticism directed at the current government to be the same, as is customary amongst authoritarian or totalitarian regimes," Gudkov said.

The law on 'foreign agents' could be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights, Gudkov surmises. "In human rights law, international law has primacy over national law. And the NGO law contravenes the norms of international law. The European Court of Human Rights could demand that international sanctions be imposed," Gudkov told Novaya Gazeta.

Previously in an interview with Izvestiya the head of the Levada Centre had opined that the repression actions against social scientists "fits in with the general pattern of the actions taken by this Putin regime". Gudkov pointed out that the two other leading social science centres: the Public Opinion Foundation and VTSIOM both work for the Presidential administration. According to him, the Levada Centre "tells things as they are." "We have been showing a drop in support for the Kremlin, the extent of the regime's delegitimisation, the increase in discontent and growing doubts that Putin is not so much fighting corruption, but is himself a part of it. This is fuelling the authorities' nervousness and is forcing them to take these sorts of foolish steps," Gudkov believes.

The adoption of the law on 'foreign agents' could lead to the mass closure of non-governmental organisations. The Golos Association is working out ways to cease operating as a legal entity. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta Golos's Executive Director Lilia Shibanova stressed that she will not be complying with the new requirements. "It is absolutely out of the question - we do not represent any foreign interests," she stated. "Unfortunately, the law is designed in such a way that if we continue to persist, fines amounting to thousands of dollars will be imposed on us and the current leadership's prosecution case against us could be changed from an administrative one to a criminal one. As a result closing down Golos as a legal entity may be the only way out."