The United States has denied allegation that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) tried to influence Russian elections.
Responding to questions at a routine press briefing on Wednesday, US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said "we completely reject the notion that our support for civil society, democracy, human rights in any way interferes with elections, whether in Russia or anywhere else in the world. We do these programs all over the world. We are evenhanded as to access to the resources for political parties, et cetera. So from that perspective, I just want to take that one off the table."
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it asked USAID to stop operating in the country because it tried to influence Russia's domestic politics.
It accused USAID of "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."
The US aid agency has been asked to wind up operations in Russia on October 1.
Nuland said that the United States is "extremely proud of the work that AID has done in Russia over the past 20 years. In addition to civil society support, U.S. support went to help Russia, and the Russian people in particular, manage health problems like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, to help Russia improve environmental standards, to protect wildlife, things that are of greater good not only to the Russian people, but also to the region and to the world."
Nuland expressed her regret that Russia has taken this decision, as a result of which "the Russian people are not going to be able to benefit from the support that the American people are sending their way in these areas of health, environment, et cetera."
However, she made it clear that the U.S. will continue to work with "those Russians who want to work with us" in areas of civil society, human rights, and rule of law. "We do that in many parts of the world where we don't have AID missions, and we are looking now at precisely how we'll work this through," Nuland said and vowed that "we are committed to stay on the side of those who want to see a more democratic, more just Russia."
"When we offer democracy programs anywhere in the world, we are evenhanded as to access to them for any political party that wants to take advantage of them. This is not about how you win; this is about how you manage campaigns, about how you work with civil society, et cetera. So I can't speak to whether the party of the President of Russia ever worked with NDI or IRI. I'll refer you to them. But I would guess at some point, some of those individuals probably did work with us," Nuland told reporters.
But on the larger point, I think I just said that it is regrettable that Russia has taken this decision, first and foremost for the Russian people, because we were
Nuland noted that USAID has been "strongly supporting" the Russians at the level of about $50 million a year on tackling some of their difficult problems, including persistent health and environmental challenges. "And we hope for their sake that their government will now pick up the slack, because the problems obviously persist, she added.
Nuland clarified that the United States-based non-profit, non-partisan organizations such as International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) offer training programs to political parties in Russia in how to run campaigns and how to work with community activists, but do not pay them cash.
by RTT Staff Writer
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