Russia says USAID’s exit due to intervention in domestic political affairs [Xinhua]

MOSCOW, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — Russia confirmed Wednesday that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will leave the country from Oct. 1, accusing the agency has tried to influence domestic political affairs.

“This decision (to shut down USAID) is made due to attempts of the agency to influence political processes, civil society institutions, and elections at various levels, through distribution of grants,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters here.

“Serious questions arose from USAID activities in Russian regions, especially in the North Caucasus,” he said.

Moscow has warned Washington several times that such activities did not in line with aims of bilateral humanitarian cooperation, the spokesman added.

However, Lukashevich also noted that Russia would like to cooperate with USAID in the third country over humanitarian aid projects.

“But such cooperation should adhere to principles of equality, respects of each other’s interests and non-interference in domestic affairs,” he stressed.

USAID is America’s primary official foreign aid agency. The agency opened its office in Moscow in 1992, with some 60 Russians and 13 U.S. citizens working for it currently.

In July, the Russian State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, passed a law that substantially restricted activities of non-government organizations in Russia.

During the APEC summit in early September, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov informed the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Moscow would ask USAID to leave Russia shortly.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that it would shut down USAID mission in Russia following the Moscow decision.

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