Russia’s pro-presidential ruling party United Russia participated in some programs financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday Moscow told USAID to cease its activity in Russia from October 1 because the agency had “tried to affect the course of the political process in the country by its use of grants.” Rights advocates have expressed concerns over USAID’s closure.
“I was asked the question yesterday as to whether President [Vladimir] Putin’s party, United Russia, has ever availed itself of the programming that the United States offers through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute,” Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the department, told a daily press briefing.
“Our understanding is that United Russia has participated in some of IRI and NDI’s programs over the years,” Nuland said but did not specify the programs.
Nuland once again confirmed that the USAID mission’s activities in Moscow would cease as of October 1 this year refuting some Russian media reports that the mission would be extended until May next year.
“We have committed to the Russian Government that there’ll be no new contracting, no new programming, as of October 1st. But we have also asked for some time to wind down the mission, to conclude the programs that we have underway,” she said.
USAID, which operates in more than 100 countries, has been active in Russia over the past two decades. Its array of social programs have targeted issues such as at-risk youth and pressing public health issues like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
But the agency has also funded civic organizations that have rankled Russian officials, including the election watchdog Golos, whose monitors have catalogued violations in local and federal elections in recent years.