MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Wednesday said it had given USAID until October 1 to halt its work as the US aid agency was meddling in domestic politics, a move that risks sparking a new diplomatic crisis with Washington. The termination of the US Agency for International Development’s activities may also harm the operations of a string of NGOs that rely on its funding, including the vote monitor Golos that showed up irregularities in recent polls. The unexpected move appears part of an increasing crackdown in Russia on civil society after President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin for a third term in May amid an outburst of street protests. “The decision was taken mainly because the work of the agency’s officials far from always responded to the stated goals of development and humanitarian cooperation,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “We are talking about attempts to influence political processes - including elections at different levels - through its distribution of grants,” it added. USAID’s activities “must be halted from October 1,” it added, giving a short deadline that had not been revealed by the Americans when the decision was first made public in Washington on Tuesday.