Monday

28th May 2018

EU condemns Russian attack on last real pollster

  • Moscow: Levada's Gudkov said the listing marks "the return of totalitarianism" (Photo: Jay Springett)

The EU foreign service has urged Russia to reconsider its listing of Levada, the country’s only independent pollster, as an “agent” of foreign powers.

It said in a statement on Tuesday (6 September): “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”.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It described the listing as part of broader “restrictions on independent civil society”.

It also said the decision was “of particular concern ahead of the State Duma elections of 18 September”.

The last Russian parliamentary elections, in 2011, saw thousands of people protest in Moscow against alleged vote rigging.

The Levada listing came just a few days after the NGO published a survey which said that the popularity of United Russia, president Vladimir Putin’s political party, had fallen from 65 percent in January to 50 percent in August and that just 40 percent of people intended to vote.

By contrast, state-friendly pollsters said this month that United Russia had 75 percent support and that 70 percent of people would vote.

Reacting to the listing, Lev Gudkov, Levada’s director, told the RFE/RFL news agency: “With the status of a 'foreign agent,' it would, of course, be very difficult to conduct sociological or marketing surveys … Considering the level of fear in this country, people and organisations are going to refuse to have anything to do with us”.

He added that the decisions marks a new stage in Putin’s authoritarianism.

“I think we are talking about the beginning of a new phase … the return of totalitarianism, and the significant strengthening of the hard-line bloc, with its KGB ideology from Soviet times”, he said.

The listing was issued on Monday by Russia’s justice ministry.

It said in a statement that Levada, which began work in 1987 and which has more than 60 offices in Russia, had received funds from four US universities, from US pollster Gallup, British pollster Ipsos Mori, and from Norway’s Fafo research institute.

It described one of the US schools, the University of Wisconsin, as being itself an agency of the US department of defence.

The “foreign agents” law, which came into force in 2012, obliges designated groups to declare their status in all their activities and to submit detailed audits of their operations.

The Levada listing brings to 141 the number of entities that carry the label. The list includes Golos, an independent election monitoring group, and Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest human rights NGOs, which also aimed to protect the historical record of Stalinist-era crimes.

Levada’s findings were rarely published by state-run Russian media.

But its reporting was widely cited by foreign media, such as British broadcaster the BBC, US newspaper The New York Times, and the Reuters news agency.

Speaking to EUobserver last year, Denis Volkov, a Levada sociologist, warned that Putin was trying to exert full control over the information available to Russian people.

He described pro-Putin propaganda as an attempt to create a confusing parallel reality.

“The more people see it, the less they understand what’s going on. It’s not information. It’s about creating emotions … a few facts, but mixed with fabrications and twists which are appealing to the imagination”, he said.

He urged EU countries and the US to maintain support for Russian reformists.

“If the West abandons the situation and says ‘OK. Nothing can be done’, those people in Russia who are still interested in the West and who believe in Western ideas - what Putin would call the ‘fifth column’ - will also feel abandoned. It would be foolish to lose and betray these people”, he said.

Opinion

Czech intelligence alarmed by Russian 'threat'

Russian intelligence has created an "infrastructure" of propaganda channels and puppet groups that could be used to "destabilise or manipulate Czech society" at any time.

Slovakia's Fico goes to Russia

The Slovak prime minister, whose country currently chairs the EU council, will meet the Russian leader ahead of upcoming EU talks on Russia policy.

EU extends Russia blacklist by six months

Oligarchs, Kremlin aides, and security chiefs remain banned from EU until at least March next year, but Brexit could help Russia to get off the hook on economic sanctions.

Analysis

Good day for Russia in Europe

Russian firm Gazprom is a reformed character, the EU commission has said, improving the climate for new pipelines to Europe.

Sofia summit: EU leaders search for a Trump strategy

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" European Council Donald Tusk asked on Wednesday, as EU leaders were trying to come up with a reply to the US president's questioning of the transatlantic relationship.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations