Russia will not treat European foundations like it did the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“These foundations act on the basis of intergovernmental agreements, well-considered and mutually acceptable ones, which are based on the principles of reciprocity and equality,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Kommersant business daily published on Wednesday.
When asked whether European organizations working in Russia could face USAID’s fate, Lavrov said: “I do not see reasons to try to extrapolate this situation to other cultural centers and countries. Americans do not have [organizations] similar to the Goethe Institute, the Cervantes Institute, the British Council and the Alliance Francaise.”
USAID, which has funded Russian non-governmental organizations, formally stopped its operations in Russia from Monday. President Vladimir Putin said the mission had been meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
Senior Russian officials have portrayed some of USAID programs - such as those funding election monitoring and human rights groups critical of the Kremlin - as attempts by a foreign nation to undermine Russia’s sovereignty. Human rights activists have cried foul over the closure of USAID’s Russian offices saying small regional NGOs would suffer most.
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. The United States has repeatedly denied that its programs are aimed at interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs.
Since Putin’s reelection as president, Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has given the green light to several laws that Russian civil society activists claim are intended to dampen dissent and provoke fear among citizens who have become increasingly active in recent months.
These laws range from a substantial hike in protest-related fines to the law requiring homegrown NGOs to register as “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funding and engage in political activity.