MOSCOW, September 18 (RAPSI) - Speaking on the sidelines of the the meeting of the so-called Valdai Club, an annual conference that brings together Russian and foreign public figures and pundits, head of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Ivanov defended Russia’s NGO foreign agent law, asserting that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of Russians stood in support of it.

Citing statistics derived from “numerous public opinion polls,” Ivanov asserted his belief that the law is correct.

A federal law was passed last November requiring all NGOs engaged in political activity, and receiving finance from abroad, to register as a "foreign agents," or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (app. $16,000). In February eleven Russian NGOs, Moscow Helsinki Group among them, lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) protesting the law.

Inspections of NGOs began in late March 2013 when the Justice Ministry said its goal was to check that these organizations' activities corresponded with the objectives of their charters and Russian legislation. Up to 2,000 rights groups and NGOs in Russia have been raided by prosecutors and other officials, according to some estimates. State officials have come under fire from international human rights groups and Western governments for carrying out unannounced and lengthy inspections.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said before that he doesn’t see any point in toughening or liberalizing the law but stands for putting things in order. “Some clear criteria for political activity should be set,” he said in August at the youth forum at Lake Seliger, an annual gathering in Russia’s Tver Region.