Russia Accuses US Aid Agency of Attempting to Influence Politics

Posted September 19th, 2012 at 8:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Russia is accusing the United States of using its aid agency in Moscow to influence Russian politics.

The accusation comes a day after Washington announced it will comply with Moscow's request that the U.S. Agency for International Development shut down its operations in the country.

Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday cited concerns about what it said were the USAID's “attempts to influence political processes through the distribution of grants.”

The ministry says USAID has until October 1 to halt its activities.

The 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 human trafficking. The agency also promotes democracy, respect for human rights and civic society.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday that Russia sent a letter last week saying it no longer needs U.S. help.

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 he says impact 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.