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.

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, say DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin