Russia says continued funding of nongovernmental organizations in Russia by the United States is "undisguised interference in internal affairs."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich on March 30 was referring to statements by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on U.S. intentions to continue funding of NGOs in Russia through third-country mediators, which Lukashevich described as an attempt to circumvent Russian laws.
Lukashevich said such actions were "incitement" for NGOs in Russia to violate the laws on the activities of noncommercial organizations on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Russian authorities have been carrying out inspections of scores of NGOs across the country in recent weeks to ensure the organizations are obeying recently passed laws about receiving financing from abroad.
Under a law passed last year, organizations that work in Russia but receive foreign funding must register as "foreign agents," a designation many Russian organizations consider tantamount to being declared spies or enemies of the state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the inspections as routine checks to see if the activities of these groups are "in compliance with their [NGOs'] stated goals and with Russian legislation."
Nuland said on March 28 the United States was "deeply concerned" about the inspections.
"The sheer scope of these inspections now -- which are now, as I said, targeting not just NGOs who are subject to the changes under Russian law but also targeting civil organizations that are not subject to those laws, like religious organizations, educational organizations -- really gives us concern that this is some kind of a witch-hunt," Nuland said.
Lukashevich said such remarks "cannot be called anything but cynical and provocative."
Among the groups that have been subjected to these inspections are the Moscow offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Transparency International, as well as well-known Russian NGOs such as the Moscow Helsinki Group and Memorial rights organization.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax