The US sharply rejected allegations by the chief of the KGB's main successor agency that Washington had used non-governmental organizations and the Peace Corps for espionage.
Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Federal Security Service, made the accusations Thursday and directed similar allegations at British, Saudi and Kuwaiti groups.
A statement from the US Embassy on Friday said Washington "categorically rejects charges ... that American non-governmental organizations are being used to carry out intelligence operations against Russia in the guise of charitable and other activities. Moreover, allegations that the US Peace Corps has been involved in intelligence activities are completely unfounded and untrue."
Patrushev said the groups were being used not only for espionage but to promote political upheaval in former Soviet republics.
The Kremlin has watched with displeasure as popular uprisings sparked government changes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past three months. All three countries are part of what Russia regards as its historical sphere or influence. Key figures in those uprisings have had contact with Western democracy-promoting groups that Russia accuses of fomenting revolution. Among those groups is the International Republican Institute, which gets most of its money from the US government.
The embassy statement did not mention the IRI by name, but said that Russians who have worked with the Peace Corps and NGOs "are now taking more active roles in the civic and economic loves of their communities."
The Peace Corps pulled out of Russia in 2003 amid spying allegations. When the program was closed "the Russian government expressed its gratitude for the assistance Peace Corps had provided," the embassy statement said.
Yesterday, the state-run Kuwaiti News Agency said the country's charge d'affaires in Moscow met with a Foreign Ministry official and delivered a letter denying the allegations about his country.
Charge Abdul-Wahab al-Saqer was quoted as saying Patrushev's accusations were "absolutely baseless."
Russia's neighbor Belarus is widely expected to see rising pro-democracy activity, with last year's Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine encouraging opposition to hardline Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
On Friday, Stepan Sukhorenko, head of Belarus' security service, which has retained the Soviet-era acronym KGB, was quoted by the news agency Interfax as saying "We are well aware of preparations from abroad to change the powers in Belarus."