Putin expels USAID from Russia

Sept. 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM
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MOSCOW, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he is booting the U.S. Agency for International Development, ending the agency's presence after nearly two decades.

"The United States recently received the Russian Government's decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation," the State Department said Tuesday in a statement. "We are extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the past two decades, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition USAID's programs."

Although the agency's physical presence in Russia will end, "we remain committed to supporting democracy, human rights and the development of a more robust civil society in Russia and look forward to continuing our cooperation with Russian non-governmental organizations," the statement said.

Since his presidential campaign, Putin has mounted an attack on organizations that accept foreign money, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

An end date was not reported.

USAID, which has been working in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union, budgeted $49.47 million for Russian programs for fiscal 2012.

Observers told the Post the decision will provide fodder to those who believe Russia is a major U.S. adversary and isolate Russian activists. The organizations most affected are those that receive U.S. support, including groups that monitor elections, organize to address healthcare issues, speak out for human rights, and work to protect the environment and to improve education.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the department was told of the decision in a letter last week.

A senior administration official told the Post the expulsion didn't signal an end of U.S. assistance.

"We are going to look for other ways to establish the general policy objectives we established at the beginning of the Obama administration," the official said.

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