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The Russian Foreign Ministry notified the United States that the US Agency for International Development should wrap up its activities in Russia starting from October 1. This measure was taken in retaliation to the US attempts “to influence on the political processes through the distribution of grants.” “This decision was primarily caused by the fact the ways of work by representatives of the agency in our country have not always matched the goals set for promoting the development of bilateral humanitarian cooperation,” the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily quoted spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich as saying. “This is the attempts to influence on the political processes through the distribution of the grants, including the elections of various levels and civil society institutions. Serious questions arose over the activities of the US Agency for International Development in Russian regions, particularly in the North Caucasus, about what we have warned repeatedly our US colleagues,” he said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asking the Russian authorities to extend the term of operation of the Russian branch of USAID until May 2013, the Kommersant daily reported. The Russian government confirmed the fact that the letter was received, but refused to disclose its content.
This issue was discussed at the US Embassy on Tuesday, deputy executive director of the Golos association Grigory Melkonyants told the Kommersant daily. “For them the decision to terminate the USAID activities in Russia is disappointing, but they do not intend to leave Russia at all. It is still unclear how the brain storming is going on,” Melkonyants, who attended a meeting with US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, USAID representatives and Russian nongovernmental organizations, which were funded by USAID.
The organizations, which are funded from USAID, do not rule out the termination of their activities. Director of the human rights project “I have the Right” Anton Burkov told the Kommersant daily that the program intended until August 2013 depends fully from the USAID funding and it is unclear whether it will be completed. The Golos association, which is maintaining an independent monitoring of the elections, stated that USAID is their main source. In particular, 400,000 dollars were allocated for the State Duma elections and the Russian presidential elections each.
Head of the Kazan public organization of the relatives of drug addicts Vera Albert Zaripov told the Kommersant daily that the organization will have “to cut sharply its activities and staff,” because the USAID funding reached 70-75% of its whole budget. “The state authorities do not support us. It is unclear what will await us,” he noted.
After the shutdown of the Russian USAID branch the Memorial centre will not receive about 50% of allocations, which were made for the programs in the North Caucasus, head of the human rights centre Memorial Oleg Orlov said.
The head of one of Russian nongovernmental organizations told the Kommersant daily that the US intends to continue the financing of the programs of 3-4 organizations in Russia, but the format of funding is unclear yet. The US will continue to support Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Golos association, he told the Kommersant daily. Head of the human rights committee Civil Assistance Svetlana Gannushkina believes that USAID also can fund remotely the programs of Russian human rights organizations, “The legislation does not ban this. We are working with one Norwegian foundation, the funds are transferred to our accounts directly from Oslo. Another thing is that this distant cooperation most likely envisages a lower level of funding.”