Russia accuses US of meddling after 'witch hunt' remarks

MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow on Saturday accused Washington of interfering in its domestic affairs after the State Department compared searches of Russian non-governmental organisations to a "witch hunt."

The Russian foreign ministry referred to remarks by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who said earlier this week that Washington continued to provide financing to some of Russia's embattled rights groups.

"The remarks of Victoria Nuland who compared routine checks of NGOs to a 'witch hunt' cannot be called anything but cynical and provocative," the spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, Mr Alexander Lukashevich, said in a statement.

He said Moscow saw Ms Nuland's statement that Washington continued to finance some Russian rights groups through intermediaries as "direct interference in our domestic affairs."

Russian prosecutors have in recent weeks staged a wave of searches of dozens rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Rights activists link the searches to a controversial law forcing foreign-funded NGOs involved in politics to carry a "foreign agent" tag.

Ms Nuland told a briefing earlier this week that "the sheer scope of these inspections now... really gives us concern that this is some kind of a witch hunt."

"We are providing funding through platforms outside of Russia for those organisations that continue to want to work with us."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.