The home page of the U.S.-Russia Foundation and Rule of Law.
The home page of the U.S.-Russia Foundation and Rule of Law.

The U.S. State Department says it regrets a Russian decision to ban an economic development foundation once supported by President Vladimir Putin and former U.S. President George W. Bush.

A U.S. statement late Friday came hours after Russian prosecutors declared the U.S.-Russia Foundation and Rule of Law (USRF) an "undesirable" organization and banned Russian citizens and companies from cooperating with it.

U.S. officials describe the foundation as an effort to work in partnership with the Russian government and key institutions to promote long-term economic development and rule of law. Russian media describe its mission as strengthening bilateral ties by supporting a market economy — goals that both Putin and Bush strongly endorsed at a Group of Eight summit in 2006.

But Friday, a spokeswoman for Russia's prosecutor general said the ban was issued after studying the foundation's work in Russian territory. She also said the foundation's president, U.S. citizen Mark Pomar, had been banned from entering Russia until 2025 "for activity aimed against Russia's interests."

The ban was the second issued by Moscow in the past week against a U.S. nongovernmental organization, as U.S.-Russian diplomatic ties continue to fray over a host of military and diplomatic disputes.

Prosecutors on November 30 banned a pro-democracy charity founded by Hungarian-born U.S. business tycoon George Soros, who has urged NATO to take a hard line against Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow's support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine has also drawn widespread Western economic sanctions in the past 18 months, and retaliatory penalties from Moscow.

Bilateral ties were further strained last week when NATO moved to invite Montenegro to join the 28-nation Western military alliance.  

Moscow has repeatedly complained about what it describes as NATO encroachment on territories of former communist states once a part of the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact.