Russia's justice ministry has branded Russia's only major private pollster a "foreign agent," a stigma that could lead to its closure.
The ministry issued a statement Monday evening saying that the Levada polling agency has been listed as a "foreign agency" after a snap inspection found some irregularities.
Following major protests against his rule in 2011 and 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that requires all NGOs receiving foreign funding and found to engage in vaguely defined "political activity" to register as "foreign agents." Those who fail to comply face fines and potential closure. Many organizations have said the stigma of "foreign agent," which rings like "spy" in Russian, would make it impossible for them to work in the country.
The decision comes less than a week after the respected pollster founded by and named after the late sociologist Yuri Levada published its latest election survey, indicating a drop in the ruling party's ratings. Russia holds a parliamentary election on Sept. 18.