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US reiterates commitment to supporting civil society in Russia

September 20, 2012, 3:35 UTC+3

The United States recently received the Russian Government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation

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WASHINGTON, September 20 (Itar-Tass) —— The American government will continue to support civil society in Russia, Department of State Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at apr·s briefing on Wednesday, September 19, following the end of USAID activities in the Russian Federation from October 1.

“The United States recently received the Russian Government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation. 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. 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,” she said.

“We completely reject the notion that our support for civil society, democracy, human rights in any way interferes with elections, whether in Russia or anywhere else in the world. We do these programmes all over the world. We are evenhanded as to access to the resources for political parties, et cetera. So from that perspective, I just want to take that one off the table,” Nuland stressed.

She said that over the past 20 years, in addition to civil society support, “U.S. support went to help Russia, and the Russian people in particular, manage health problems like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, to help Russia improve environmental standards, to protect wildlife, things that are of greater good not only to the Russian people, but also to the region and to the world.”

Nuland said it was “regrettable” that the Russian people will not be able to benefit from the support that the American people are sending them.

She reiterated that with regard to our support for civil society, for democracy, for human rights, for rule of law, “we will continue to work with those Russians in civil society who want to work with us. We do that in many parts of the world where we don’t have AID missions, and we are looking now at precisely how we’ll work this through, but we are committed to stay on the side of those who want to see a more democratic, more just Russia.”

Nuland said there are different kinds of ways to support civil society. “We have at least 20 missions around the world where we support civil society without having an AID mission, per se. Whether we can – whether we do this directly to our assistance partners, whether we do it through international organizations, through foundations, we are going to continue to support the development of a strong civil society in Russia,” she said.

She said at the same time that the U.S. supports free, fair, transparent elections. “Some of the support that we offer in countries around the world are for election monitors, election observers, so that they can bear witness for their own people as to whether elections were free and fair – polling, these kinds of things that provide transparency to populations. So obviously we are trying to promote, in word and deed, free, fair, transparent elections,” she said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier in the day that “the decision was caused first of all by the fact that the character of the Agency’s activities in this country has not always corresponded to the stated objectives of supporting the development of bilateral humanitarian cooperation”.

He referred in particular to “attempts to influence -- by means of distribution of grants – political processes, including elections of various levels, and institutions of civil society”.

“There were many questions about the Agency’s activities in Russian regions, especially in the North Caucasus, and we notified our American counterparts thereof several times,” Lukashevich said.

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