Russia scraps US anti-drug accord after 10 years

A heroin user prepares a does of the drug (file image) Heroin and other illegal drugs a are a big social issue in Russia

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The Russian government has abandoned an agreement with the US on fighting crime and the drugs trade, in an apparent sign of worsening relations.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the decade-long agreement no longer addressed "realities" and had "exhausted its potential".

The agreement saw the US funding anti-crime projects in Russia.

Meanwhile, two US pro-democracy groups have helped staff who were reportedly threatened with arrest to flee Russia.

The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute closed their Moscow offices last year after laws were passed cracking down on organisations which receive foreign funding.

Speaking to the BBC's Russian service, unnamed sources in the non-governmental organisations said six Russian staff members and their families had arrived in Lithuania at the end of December or early in January on tourist visas.

Staff had been approached by Russia's domestic security service, the FSB, and other law enforcement agencies who warned them they could face prosecution for treason, one of the sources said.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the two NGOs.

Kremlin anger

News that the anti-drugs-trade agreement was being scrapped appeared in a decree on the Russian government's website.

It came a few days after the US government pulled out of a joint working group with the Russians on civil society.

Russia has been grappling for years with a huge heroin abuse problem, exacerbated by its proximity to drug-trafficking routes from Afghanistan.

It has accused the US of failing to use its influence in Afghanistan to tackle the trade effectively.

Ever since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency last May, a chill has returned to US-Russian relations, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow.

The two countries seem locked into a spiral of deteriorating ties, he says.

Underlying it is US concern at the state of democracy and human rights under President Putin, and Moscow's anger at being lectured by the Americans, our correspondent says.

The US Magnitsky bill adopted late last year sparked particular fury in Moscow as the law bars Russian officials suspected of human rights violations from entering America and freezes any US assets they may have.

In response Moscow has not only barred US officials it suspects of rights abuses, it has banned American families from adopting Russian children.

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