MOSCOW -- Russia has ordered the United States to end its financial support for a wide-range of pro-democracy groups, human rights organizations and other civil society programs, in an aggressive step by the Kremlin to halt what it has come to view as thinly veiled American meddling in the country's internal affairs, and backing for some opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin.
The Kremlin's provocative decision to end two decades of work in post-Soviet Russia by the U.S. Agency for International Development was announced on Tuesday by the State Department in Washington. It will cut off aid that currently totals about $50 million a year.
The Russian government has taken a number of recent actions to bring pressure on nongovernmental groups and clamp down on political dissent, including a new law requiring any organization receiving aid from abroad to register with the justice minister as "acting as a foreign agent."
The aid money from Washington supports a panorama of organizations and advocacy efforts, including Golos, Russia's only independent election monitoring group, which played in an important role in exposing fraud in parliamentary elections last December.
While the Kremlin demanded that the aid programs cease by Oct. 1, Obama administration officials said they had appealed to the Russian Foreign Ministry for a more gradual phase-out.