The US Agency for International Development (USAID) says it is withdrawing from Russia after Moscow decided to call a halt to the agency’s work in the country.
“The United States recently received the Russian government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Over the past two decades, USAID has spent more than $2.6 billion in Russia to help environmental protection and economic modernization programs and efforts to combat infectious diseases, .
“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 (NGOs),” Nuland said.
"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," she added.
Russia told the United States last week that USAID should end its activities in the country. While Nuland would not be drawn on the reasons given for Moscow's decision, she said it was more "their sense that they don't need this anymore."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of fomenting unrest through its support for NGOs in Russia.
Following the announcement, the Russian government on Wednesday said the United States had been using its aid mission in Moscow to ‘influence Russian politics and presidential elections.’
“It's about attempts to influence political processes, including elections of various types, and institutions of civil society through the distribution of grants,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer, said the decision reflected Russia’s reluctance to see foreign support for pro-democracy efforts on its territory.
"They see the AID’s efforts in Russia as being a prime funder of the NGOs that are concerned about their elections and concerned about the regression of democracy in Russia," Pifer said.
USAID has offices in more than 100 countries.