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Russia Alleges USAID Tried To Meddle With Its Political Process

Russia asked the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to wind up its activity in the country as it tried to meddle with the country's political process by using its grants, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Russia told the USAID to cease its activity in the country because the agency had "tried to affect the course of the political process in the country by its use of grants," Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow, adding that the agency would cease operating in Russia from October 1.

"The decision was called for primarily because the character of the agency's representatives work in our country did not always comply with the declared aims of cooperation in bilateral humanitarian cooperation. We are talking about 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 Ministry said on its website.

Russian civil society has become fully mature, the Foreign Ministry said, and did not need "external direction." Moscow is ready to work with USAID in third countries, it said.

U..S State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday had announced the termination of USAID's activity in Russia.

"The United States recently received the Russian Government's decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation," Nuland said in a statement. "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." she said in a statement.

USAID, which operates in more than 100 countries, has been active in Russia over the past two decades. Its array of social programs have targeted issues such as at-risk youth and pressing public health issues, Russian media reported.

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 that requires Russian non-governmental organizations receiving foreign funding to register as a "foreign agent" and submit to more rigorous checks by the authorities.

Russian authorities say 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 U.S. and the EU, confirmed that it had received nearly 5,300 complaints alleging violations of electoral laws. The post-poll protests were brutally suppressed, with hundreds of demonstrators detained.

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.

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