The United States is ending its efforts to promote democracy and civil society in Russia under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.
The move comes in response to the Russian government’s decision to halt USAID’s programs in the country, the State Department said.
Senior Russian officials have portrayed some of these programs - such as those funding election monitoring and human rights groups critical of the Kremlin - as attempts by a foreign nation to undermine Russia’s sovereignty.
“The United States recently received the Russian Government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria 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, 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.
But the agency has also funded civic organizations that have rankled Russian officials, including the election watchdog Golos, whose monitors have catalogued violations in local and federal elections in recent years.
The United States has repeatedly denied that these programs are aimed at interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs.
“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 State Department said.