The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will stop operating in Russia, in line with a recent Russian government decision to that effect, the U.S. State Department announced Tuesday.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed in a statement that Washington "recently received the Russian government's decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation."
"We are extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the past two decades, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition USAID's programs," Nuland said in the statement.
"While USAID's physical presence in Russia will come to an end, we remain committed to supporting democracy, human rights, and the development of a more robust civil society in Russia and look forward to continuing our cooperation with Russian non-governmental organizations," the statement added.
The USAID supports development and governance programs around the world. The agency says it has provided "more than $2.6 billion toward Russia's social and economic development" since 1992.
USAID says it has worked with a wide range of organizations, including government, the private sector and non-profit, during its 20-year history in Russia. The agency claims that its operations were aimed at creating "a more open and innovative society and a strengthened partnership between Russia and the United States."
The latest development comes two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial legislation the requires Russian nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding to resister as a "foreign agent" and submit to more rigorous checks by the authorities.
Russian authorities say that the new law is aimed at preventing foreign nations from influencing the country's internal politics. Incidentally, foreign-funded NGOs and western nations, particularly the United States, were blamed for inciting the widespread protests that followed Putin's disputed re-election in May.
The Opposition claimed that the polls were marred by irregularities. Golos, Russia's only monitoring group funded mainly by the US and the EU, confirmed that it had received nearly 5,300 complaints alleging violations of electoral laws. The protests were brutally suppressed, with hundreds of demonstrators arrested.
Putin was Russia's President between 2000 and 2008, when he was forced to stand down by the Constitution. He then became Prime Minister after ushering in his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev as President. Medvedev is currently Russia's Prime Minister.
by RTT Staff Writer
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