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US Rejects Russian Charge of Subversion in Belarus


The United States Friday rejected as completely false a charge by Russia's security chief that U.S. and other non-governmental groups (NGOs) are plotting revolution in Belarus. The State Department said work of the NGOs is transparent and peaceful.

The State Department has rejected in unusually forceful terms a charge by the head of Russia's FSB security service that U.S. non-governmental groups are part of a covert plot to unseat the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

In remarks Thursday in the Russian Parliament, FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev accused the Peace Corps, along with U.S. British and other NGOs of spy activity, and he said millions of dollars were being funneled into Belarus to try to replicate in that country the so-called Orange Revolution last year in Ukraine.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said the allegations of the Russian security chief are completely false, and many of them ridiculous, and at odds with the tone of the summit meeting of Presidents Bush and Putin only days before.

Mr. Boucher said the Peace Corps has had very high standards of conduct since its founding in 1961 and that when its decade-long program in Russia ended in 2003, the Russian government expressed gratitude and said its work had been positive and useful.

As to the operations of U.S.-based NGOs, Mr. Boucher said their work in promoting democracy and the growth of civil society in European countries including Belarus is open and transparent.

“Our election aid in Belarus and elsewhere is for civic participation in the election process, balanced media coverage, non-partisan political party training, election monitoring and election administration. These programs are non-partisan, they're transparent, they're peaceful in nature and we'll conduct them in Belarus in order to support efforts to build civil society and democracy,” said Mr. Boucher.

Mr. Boucher said the United States provided $6.5 million in democracy aid to Belarus this year, and that details of the spending are available on the State Department's website.

He said another $5 million in Belarus funding was included in the supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war and various foreign aid programs that was approved by Congress this week.

The United States has long been critical of the authoritarian government of Mr. Lukashenko in Minsk, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described as the last dictatorship in Europe.

Ms. Rice met leaders of Belarusian opposition groups last month in Lithuania, who are trying to unite around a candidate to challenge Mr. Lukashenko in elections next year.

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