Hours after the posting, Russian officials described the move as another step away from dependence on outside assistance and excessive U.S. influence. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was not connected to any dispute between the two countries. But it follows back-and-forth actions set off by the passage in the United States of the Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa and financial sanctions on corrupt Russian officials. Russia countered with a ban on U.S. adoptions, and last week the United States withdrew from a high-level Russian-American civil society group, saying Russian policies made such a panel ineffective and inappropriate.
“Withdrawal from this agreement means that we have become absolutely self-sufficient both organizationally and financially,” Alexei Pushkov, the head of the international affairs committee in parliament’s lower house, told the Interfax news agency Wednesday. “This is our course toward getting rid of some dependence on the U.S.”
Pushkov said it was unlikely that the Russian action would further damage relations with the United States.
“After the Americans passed the so-called Magnitsky Act, they themselves added serious tension to our relations, and negative consequences from the adoption of that act are much worse than the decision to pull out of the intergovernmental agreement on combating crime and drug trafficking,” he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed the Russian decision but said the United States was seeking clarification about the scope of the change.
“We obviously regret this decision because under our agreement, we’ve had very fruitful cooperation with Russia on rule of law, counter-corruption efforts, preventing trafficking in persons, counternarcotics and strengthening our mutual legal assistance cooperation,” Nuland said.
She called the Russian action “self-defeating.”
“Most of the work we were doing under this agreement was also involved in training Russians,” Nuland said. “But it’s obviously a Russian decision if they don’t feel they need that help anymore.”
Since 2002, hundreds of Russian prosecutors and investigators, along with some judges and defense lawyers, have participated in U.S.-sponsored programs in Moscow and have traveled to the United States. Their American counterparts have, in turn, traveled to Russia to improve cooperation in fighting crime worldwide.