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‘Spy-Mania’ Threatens to Blind Russia to Itself, Pollster Says

  • Foreign agent tag undermines ability to research, Levada says
  • Levada acts as independent benchmark for ratings, Gudkov says
Spasskaya tower and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

Spasskaya tower and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

Photographer: Chan Srithaweeporn/Getty Images

Russia’s biggest independent pollster said the country may lose its ability to understand itself because researchers are being branded as so-called foreign agents in a Kremlin-backed wave of “spy-mania.”

The label imposed on the Moscow-based Levada Center is equivalent to denouncing the group as “saboteurs” and “unpatriotic,” scaring away possible respondents to its polls, the head of the pollster, Lev Gudkov, said. It also has the effect of barring the organization from conducting political surveys during this month’s parliamentary elections, he said.