Russia demands $50m US aid effort must stop by next month

Most of USAID's $50m spend was aimed at democracy, civil society and rights

Moscow

The Russian government has demanded that USAID, the aid and development arm of the US government, close its entire mission in the country. The move, which comes after increasingly hawkish rhetoric over the alleged nefarious aims of the US in Russia from President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in recent months, is likely to result in 13 US diplomats being forced to leave Russia.

"The Russian government has decided that they want the activities of USAID to cease in Russia," said a senior US administration official yesterday. "We have responded to that decision today, but that doesn't mean that we have changed our policy of supporting the kinds of activities that USAID has been supporting, both in the sphere of health and the environment, and support for civil society."

USAID had planned to spend a total of around $50m (£31m) in Russia this year, of which almost 60 percent was earmarked for projects involving democracy, civil society and human rights. It funded Golos, the only real election monitoring body in the country, as well as organisations such as Memorial, which researches Soviet-era crimes and current human rights abuses.

A senior US administration official said that the news was broken by Russian officials to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a summit in Vladivostok last week. Yesterday, Ms Clinton wrote to her Russian counterpart to say that the US would comply with the demand, though it is unclear if the Americans will comply by what is believed to be a demand from the Russians to cease all activities of USAID by 1 October.

A US government official confirmed the US Embassy in Moscow hosts 13 American diplomats working for USAID, as well as employing 60 Russian staff. It was also unclear whether the US will plan reciprocal moves. However, the US official made it clear that Washington will attempt to continue funding the organisations it currently does within Russia, saying that the Obama administration "will be looking for ways to advance our old foreign policy objectives using new means".

In an election season in which Republican candidate Mitt Romney has already referred to Russia as an "enemy", President Barack Obama will be under pressure to formulate a firm response. There has been criticism of the decision to close USAID without a fight.

"For USAID to up and leave Russia simply because Vladimir Putin asked us to do so is a betrayal of our decades-long support not only for grassroots human rights defenders, civil society, and development of the rule of law in Russia but also for assistance in areas like improving public health and the environment," said David Kramer, president of the organisation Freedom House. He said the decision showed that the US was "caving in to a repressive government".

When Mr Obama first came to office, he championed the "Reset" policy with Russia, designed to usher in a new era of cordial relations. But in the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration, with US Ambassador Michael McFaul subject to harassment from Kremlin-linked journalists and youth groups, and Mr Putin claiming on television that anti-government protesters who came to the street to rally against his rule were paid by the US State Department.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies last night that he had no knowledge of the decision to close USAID.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk