Kremlin boots USAID for 'interference' in Russian politics (+video)
The Kremlin, already suspicious of US involvement in the street protests against Vladimir Putin, ordered development agency USAID to cease operations in Russia by Oct. 1.
After two decades and nearly $3 billion in investments, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is shutting down its operations in Russia, having been accused by the Kremlin of interfering in Russia's internal political affairs.Skip to next paragraph
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The move comes amid generally deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington and ongoing suspicions on the part of the Kremlin that the pro-democracy protest movement that erupted after allegedly fraudulent Duma elections last December has been funded and directed from abroad.
It also coincides with the coming into force of a new law, passed by the State Duma in June, which requires most Russian non-governmental organizations that engage in "political activity" and receive any outside funding to register as "foreign agents" and describe themselves as such in all their public materials.
Russia's Foreign Ministry posted a tough statement on Wednesday, saying that USAID has been ordered to cease operations in Russia by Oct. 1, because "the character of the agency's representatives' work in our country did not always comply with the declared aims of cooperation in bilateral humanitarian cooperation," it said.
"We are talking about [USAID] issuing grants in an attempt to affect the course of the political process in the country, including elections at different levels and institutions in civil society," it added.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the agency was closing down its Russian operations in response to a decision by the Russian government, but added the US might find other avenues to support human rights and civil society projects in Russia.
"The AID budget for fiscal year 2012 is about $50 million, in addition to the civil society programs. We will look for ways to continue with those members of Russian civil society who want to continue to work with us," Ms. Nuland said.
A list of USAID programs in Russia shows that the agency has supported a wide range of causes, including child welfare, HIV/AIDS prevention, promotion of professional exchanges, consultation on legislation, microfinance for Russian small businesses, assistance in restructuring the Russian electricity sector, helping the disabled, protecting wildlife, and fighting human trafficking.