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Russia pulls out of anti-crime deal with US, says it doesn't need help

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Jan. 30, 2013: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting with senior officers of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry at Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow.AP/RIA Novosti/Government Press Service

Russia pulled out of an anti-crime accord with the United States on Wednesday, the latest sign of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed an order to scrap the 10-year-old agreement "because it was no longer relevant," his office said.

The agreement covered fighting terrorism, corruption and cross-border crimes such as drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency that the decision reflected Russia's ability to manage its internal affairs without outside help.

A U.S. embassy spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The agreement is just one of several bilateral cooperation deals that Moscow has decided to abandon. Last year, Russia expelled the U.S. International Development Agency and also warned it wouldn't extend the Nunn-Lugar program helping it dismantle nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons stockpiles.

On Friday, the U.S. withdrew from a joint civil society group.

President Barack Obama's efforts to "reset" relations with Russia has met a markedly colder wind from the Kremlin since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in May. Faced with unprecedented street protests against his 12-year rule, Putin accused the U.S. State Department of staging the protests in order to weaken Russia.

After Putin's inauguration, the Kremlin-controlled parliament then quickly rubber-stamped a series of laws imposing new restrictions in an apparent bid to curb American influence in Russia. Non-governmental organizations funded from abroad were required to register as "foreign agents," a term intended to ruin their credibility among Russians for whom the term sounds synonymous to spies. The Russian definition of treason was also expanded to include potentially any contact with a foreign organization.

Two U.S.-based NGOs have closed their Russian offices in response to the new laws. The business daily Kommersant reported Wednesday that the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which ran programs championing democratic rights, moved their staff to Lithuania after Russian security officials threatened to prosecute them under the new treason law.

Amnesty International Russia director Sergei Nikitin wrote on his blog Wednesday that the closures "show the stability of the general trend: the pressure on civil society in Russia continues."

After Congress passed a law introducing sanctions against Russian officials involved in human rights abuses, Russia responded by banning all adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans. The country's top investigative agency is also investigating a sexual abuse case against American parents already convicted in the U.S. of abusing their adopted Russian child but given suspended sentences.

Lawmakers in the Kremlin-controlled lower house have also rushed to propose such measures as banning English phrases from Russian and limiting marriages between Russian officials and foreigners.

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told NPR on Wednesday that the Russian adoption ban was "tragic" and the decision to expel the USAID "really hurts the Russian people."