U.S. Quits Russia Bilateral Civil-Society Group Over Crackdown

The U.S. is quitting a working group on civil society with Russia after the Kremlin increased limitations for non-government organizations’ activities.

The working group is no longer an appropriate or effective forum for promoting the expansion and strengthening of civil society because the Russian government has taken actions aimed against civil society, said Thomas O. Melia, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state who follows human-rights issues in Europe, Russia and the Middle East, according to the Interfax news service. The U.S. embassy in Moscow confirmed the report.

The working group was created in 2009 as part of a policy of reset declared by then-President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama. It was part of a commission designed by the two leaders to improve relations after they reached a post-Cold War low under President George W. Bush.

Relations have worsened since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency last year, with disputes over issues such as democratic rights, missile defense, weapons proliferation and the conflict in Syria.

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