The Levada center has not yet decided on giving up the orders from foreign clients to research the public opinion, Levada deputy director Alexei Grazhdankin told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
"Since the interpretation of the law on "foreign agents" is unclear, we're waiting for clarification; then we'll see if sociological polls are subject to the operation of the law and if sociological studies are a political activity," Grazhdankin said.
When asked if Levada had decided to give up foreign grants, he replied "I didn't tell you that we won't accept /orders from abroad/."
However, he underlined that taking orders from western foundations was risky at present. "We're giving it a thought. We'll discuss the possibility to conduct such research, but we haven't made any concrete decisions," the Levada deputy director said.
On May 15, the organization was warned by prosecutors in connection with the research it conducted in 2011-2012. The orders that made the prosecutors suspicious had come from Soros Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and some other foreign institutions.
These orders concerned politics, such as Russians' feelings towards police and the monitoring of the development of protests. "The study of protest activity was conducted throughout 2012,and the attitude to police was researched in 2011 or 2012," Grazhdankin went on to say. Levada center has not received new orders from these foreign foundations since.
Giving up foreign grants will not seriously affect the financial standing of the organization, because foreign funds made up 1.5 to 2 percent of its turnover.
Following the prosecutor's warning in May, Levada Center director Lev Gudkov said he did not rule out that the organization might stop operation.
Levada's official website reported that it had been warned by the Savyolovskaya prosecutor's office that "the publication of the results of sociological studies influences the public opinion and therefore is not a scientific but political activity."
The prosecutor's letter about the "circumstances that contribute to the violation of federal legislation," namely the law on foreign agents, and the subsequent warning about inadmissibility of the violation of federal legislation puts the Yuri Levada Analytical Center in a very difficult situation, practically forcing it to stop its activity as an independent sociological research organization which conducts regular opinion polls in Russia," Gudkov commented.
He believes that if the center should follow the logic of the prosecutor's warning, it should stop publishing the magazine, shut down its website, and terminate publications, open comments and analysis of the results of polls among specialists and the public, "to which we /Levada Center/ cannot agree."
The organization believes it is not possible to challenge the warning in a legal action, because "this way is too long, fraught with the collapse of the research organization and irreversible scientific and human losses."
The notion "foreign agents" appeared in July 2012, when a lawbill on non-governmental organizations was submitted to the State Duma. It envisions the registration of all politically active NGOs funded from abroad in a special Justice Ministry registry in which they are to be referred to as "performing the function of foreign agent."