Russia expels USAID for trying to sway politics
Washington/Moscow: Russia on Wednesday ordered the USAID to halt its activities in the country by October 1 accusing the American aid mission of meddling in its domestic politics, including trying to influence the outcome of polls.
The activities of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) "must be halted from October 1", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, a day after the US has said it would close its pro-democracy work in Russia following an order by the Russian government.
"The decision was taken mainly because the work of the agency's officials far from always responded to the stated goals of development and humanitarian cooperation," said the statement.
"We are talking about attempts to influence political processes -- including elections at different levels -- through its distribution of grants," it said.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the US recently "received the Russian government's decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation."
While USAID's physical presence in Russia will come to an end, she said the US remains committed to supporting democracy, human rights, and the development of a "more robust" civil society in Russia and look forward to continuing its cooperation with Russian non-governmental organisations.
The Russian decision, communicated to the US on September 12 and released to the press yesterday, was termed as insult by Republican Senator John McCain.
"The Russian government's decision to end all USAID activities in the country is an insult to the US and a finger in the eye of the Obama Administration, which has consistently trumpeted the alleged success of its so-called 'reset' policy towards Moscow," McCain said.
Claiming that the decision was driven by Russia's "autocratic" approach, McCain alleged Moscow wants to "limit" the ability of its own citizens to freely and willingly work with American partners on the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Russia.
Later talking to reporters, Nuland said over the last 20 years, the US has spent about USD 2.7 billion and the USAID budget for 2012 is about USD 50 million.
"We also work or have worked over the years with the Russian government on programs that fight AIDS there, fight tuberculosis, help orphans, help the disabled, combat trafficking, support Russian programs in the environmental area, wildlife protection," she said.
"So it is our hope that Russia will now itself assume full responsibility and take forward all of this work that we were proud to do together, so that the Russian people continue to have the benefit, Nuland said.