USAID moves troubles Kremlin critic

Sept. 21, 2012 at 11:16 AM

MOSCOW, Rwanda, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- A decision to expel USAID from Russia is an attempt by the Kremlin to limit activities of civil society, a former member of a state human rights council said.

Moscow this week gave the U.S. Agency for International Development until Oct. 1 to close its offices after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the agency was meddling in the country's political affairs.

Alexei Chesnakov, a leading figure in the ruling United Russia party, suggested it hadn't participated in any pro-democracy programs shepherded by USAID.

A report from RIA Novosti stated most of the annual $50 million spent by USAID in Russia went to civic organizations, including election monitoring group Golos.

Last week, the ruling United Russia party, once led by Putin, voted to expel opposition leader Gennady Gudkov from the lower house of the Russian Parliament. He told lawmakers the action against him was because lawmakers were "afraid of criticism."

Criticism against Putin has risen since he secured a non-consecutive third term in office in a vote that was marred to some degree by fraud.

Svetlana Gannushkina, a former member of the Kremlin's human rights council, told the state-run news agency the USAID move was "part of an obvious general tendency to limit the activities of civil society."

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