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Russia accuses US development agency of election meddling

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the United States of interfering in its elections. On Monday, the US administration revealed that Russia had asked it to close down the office of its development arm USAID in Moscow, which employs 13 US diplomats and gives out $50m (£30m) of funding a year.

In an official Foreign Ministry statement released yesterday, the Russian government accused USAID of "attempts to influence political processes through the distribution of grants".

The agency funded a number of NGOs in areas such as election monitoring, anti-corruption investigation, and human rights protection, and also funded public-health projects. A senior US administration official said that Washington is "proud" of the work USAID has done for two decades in Russia, since the fall of communism, and would look for "new ways" to continue the same work.

Life for NGOs has become harder since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in May. He has accused participants in protests against him of being paid by the US State Department, and the US ambassador, Michael McFaul, has been severely reprimanded by the Russian Foreign Ministry and hounded by pro-Kremlin television crews.