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Russia kicks out U.S. Peace Corps

Jill Dougherty
CNN Moscow Bureau Chief

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MOSCOW (CNN) -- The official statement from the Russian government came Christmas Day: the Peace Corps is no longer welcome in Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said things have changed since 1992, when the U.S.-sponsored program began operating in Russia, and noted "changing economic and social tasks facing our country."

The ministry said it is consulting with the United States on other forms of partnership "more in line with today's needs."

The move comes at the end of a difficult year for the Peace Corps in Russia, with the Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB, charging that some volunteers were spying.

"Among them are persons who were collecting information on the social, political and economic situation in Russian regions, on officials of governmental bodies and departments, on the course of elections and so on," FSB head Nikolai Patrushev told reporters earlier this month.

The U.S. Embassy dismissed the charges as "groundless."

Earlier this year, Moscow refused to provide entry visas for new Peace Corps volunteers or to extend the visas of nearly half the volunteers already in the country.

Since the two governments signed an agreement in 1992 that authorized the program in Russia, more than 700 Peace Corps workers have volunteered in such areas as teaching English as a foreign language and in business education.

"The Peace Corps is very disappointed that the work of the volunteers is coming to an end but we respect the right of the host country to make that determination," the agency said in a posting on its Web site.

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