Britain's ambassador to Moscow on Tuesday defended his country's financing of non-governmental organizations in Russia in the wake of an espionage scandal. Russian officials have accused four British diplomats of spying and said one of them had provided money for NGOs. Britain would continue funding nonprofit groups because they are beneficial both for Russia and Britain, Ambassador Anthony Brenton said.
"We are proud of the work we are doing," Brenton said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "We are helping Russians to guarantee their own rights."
Earlier, President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of nonprofit groups, but said they should not be used as instruments in other states' foreign policy.
"We are for transparent financing of (NGOs) so that they are independent and not governed by puppeteers from abroad," Putin said at a Kremlin news conference.
Brenton declined to comment on the allegations of spying by British diplomats, but said that the embassy's funding of NGOs was not harmful to Russia.
"We are not interfering in any way in Russia's internal politics, which I know has been a concern," Brenton said.
The Federal Security Service last week accused four British diplomats of spying and said one of them had provided money for nongovernment organizations an espionage scandal dismissed by Kremlin critics and rights activists as part of a campaign to discredit NGOs following the passage of a controversial law that severely restricts their activities and financing.
Putin said the four would not be expelled from Russia and expressed hope that the incident would not spoil relations with Britain. Brenton agreed: "We are keen not only to continue this cooperation, but to strengthen it." In a letter to Russian nonprofit groups that have received grants from his embassy, Brenton pledged that Britain would continue supporting nonprofit groups in Russia, "helping civil society develop the capacity to strengthen human rights, promote economic governance and encourage sustainable development”, reports the AP.
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now