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


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.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam