U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described efforts to promote greater economic integration in Eurasia as “a move to re-Sovietize the region.”
Clinton made the comments while talking to lawyers and civil society advocates who came to attend an international conference in Dublin on December 6.
Clinton pointed to Russian-led efforts like a Customs Union that includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.
“We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it," she said.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Clinton’s statement “a completely wrong understanding” of the situation.
“What we see on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union is a new type of integration, based solely on economic integration," Peskov said. "Any other integration is totally impossible in this world.”
In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin authored a newspaper article calling for a more deeply integrated “Eurasian Union.”
“There is no talk of re-forming the U.S.S.R. in some form," Putin wrote. "It would be naive to restore or copy what has been abandoned in the past but close integration -- on the basis of new values, politics, and economy -- is the order of the day.”
In Dublin, Clinton also criticized what she called the criminalization of civil-society efforts supported by the United States in countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Turkmenistan.
She said governments in former Soviet countries "are becoming much more aggressive in trying to stifle dissent."
Clinton said the United States is trying hard to fight efforts to limit or eliminate its assistance for human rights organizations.
But she said Washington has “struck out so far” with Belarus, and she called Ukraine “one of our biggest disappointments."
Clinton added that there is “no response” from Turkmenistan” on human rights.
The secretary of state also raised concerns about a new Russian law
affecting nongovernmental organizations. It went into effect last month and requires NGOs receiving funding from abroad to register themselves as "foreign agents."
Under the bill, all Russian NGOs funded from abroad and ruled to be involved in politics, or acting in the interests of foreign states and other international donors, will have to carry a "foreign agent" tag and submit to more rigorous checks by the authorities.
Those include financial audits and a requirement to issue twice-yearly reports on their activities. Those who file incomplete reports face fines of up to 1 million rubles ($30,240). Violations of the new measures would be punishable by prison terms of up to four years.
In June, another Russian law
went into effect that dramatically raises potential fines for people found guilty of participating in unsanctioned rallies.
Protesters participating in demonstrations that have not been given official approval can be fined up to $9,000.
Based on reporting by AP, FT, and VOA