Russia told the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to cease its activity in Russia because the agency had "tried to affect the course of the political process in the country by its use of grants," the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
USAID will cease operating in Russia on October 1, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
"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 Foreign 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.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a leading Russian human rights activist and the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, disagreed with the ministry statement, claiming her organization was receiving grants from USAID, but no political strings were attached.
“We have been receiving grants from USAID and the biggest grant was for the monitoring of the human rights situation in Russia… I do not know what can be considered as politics. What kind of politics can be in human rights? Every country must observe their citizens' rights,” she said.
Oleg Orlov, an activist with Russian human rights organization Memorial, called the ministry’s statement “an absolutely absurd assertion,” adding his organization will have to cut a number of projects after USAID is closed.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced the termination of USAID's activity in Russia on Tuesday.
“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.”
USAID's move comes in response to the Russian government’s decision to halt USAID’s programs in the country, the State Department said.
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 like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.