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Russia targets pollster for 'political activity'

Monday - 5/20/2013, 9:50am  ET

Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's only independent polling agency said Monday it may have to close after prosecutors targeted it for "political activity" under a law spearheading President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on civil society.

Levada Center published a letter, dated last week, from prosecutors who said its polls and publications are "aimed at shaping public opinion on government policy" and demanded it cease publication until it registers as a "foreign agent" under a law passed last year.

Russia has pushed strongly in recent months to enforce the law, which requires all foreign-funded NGOs that engage in ill-defined political activities to register as "foreign agents," a term that recalls Soviet-era propaganda casting suspicion on foreigners. The measure is seen as an attempt to restrict Kremlin critics and undermine their credibility.

Putin has long been suspicious of NGOs, especially those with American funding, which he has accused of being fronts for the U.S. government to meddle in Russia's political affairs.

Levada receives between 1.5 and 3 percent of its funding from foreign sources, including longtime b
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