US to Close USAID Missions in Russia

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has announced plans to end the U.S. Agency for International Development's operations in Russia, at Moscow's request.

A State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters Tuesday that Russia sent a letter last week saying it does not need U.S. help any more.

The aid agency has worked in Russia since the Soviet Union's collapse 20 years ago, fighting AIDS and tuberculosis, helping the disabled, protecting wildlife and combating people trafficking. The agency also promotes democracy, respect for human rights and civic society.

Nuland did not criticize the Kremlin's move, but said the United States hopes Russia will assume full responsibility to continue with this work.

The U.S. agency has spent about $2.7 billion so far in Russia and had planned to spend $50 million this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the United States for funding non-governmental groups that have an impact on Russian politics. The government recently passed a law forcing groups that receive foreign aid to declare themselves as “foreign agents.”

Thirteen American diplomats work for USAID in Russia. Nuland said that despite the end of USAID's physical presence in Russia, the United States will remain committed to supporting democracy, human rights and the development of a more robust civil society in that country.