Russia’s Security Council spoke out against the U.S. at a sensitive time for relations between the two countries. Not only are there ongoing tensions due to the crisis in Ukraine, but just last week an opposition leader was murdered near the Kremlin, write Evgennia Pismennaya and Henry Meyer for Bloomberg.

Russia: U.S. Plotting Against Putin, Aiding Opposition

Echoes of the “color revolutions”

Council chief Nikolai Patrushev says that the U.S. claims to promote civil society but is in fact funding Russian political groups, just as it did in the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union and in various other countries. He accuses the U.S. of re-purposing sanctions imposed on Russia for its role in the crisis in Ukraine as a “pretext” to cause economic hardship and increase opposition.

Senior U.S. figures have spoken out against the idea of a plot to overthrow the Russian government. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the idea was “outrageous and false,” while Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that Putin “misinterprets a great deal of what the United States has been doing and has tried to do.”

Will Stevens, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said that the sanctions are aimed at changing the country’s policies rather than its government.

Situation in Ukraine worsens relations

A crowd of over 50,000 people took to the streets of Moscow to mourn the death of Boris Nemtsov, who used to be deputy premier before joining the opposition. He was shot dead late last Friday in an area of Moscow well-known for its police presence.

“It’s clear that the White House has been counting on a sharp deterioration in Russians’ standard of living, mass protests,” Patrushev said. He claimed that Russia would not buckle under the pressure due to its resilience and “decades of experience in combating color revolutions.”

Relations between the two nations have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War due to the conflict in Ukraine, which the United Nations claims has led to at least 6,000 deaths thus far. Putin claims that the U.S. was responsible for inciting protests against his ally Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev.

Economic pressure

Russia’s economy is expected to enter recession for the first time in 6 years due to sanctions and plunging global oil prices. The ruble has also suffered, plunging over 40% this past year, although it has since steadied due to cease-fire talks in Ukraine.

U.S.-imposed sanctions were extended by another year this week, while the European Union extended theirs for 6 months. A U.S. spokesman claims that sanctions will be rolled back should a peace deal for Ukraine be implemented fully by Russia and pro-Russian rebels.

President Obama spoke out on his admiration for Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication” in the struggle against corruption, and implored Russia to find and punish those responsible for his “vicious killing.”

Claim and counter-claim

Putin has officially condemned Nemtsov’s murder but a leading figure in the opposition, Alexey Navalny, claimed that the government ordered the hit in order to prevent Nemtsov publishing details of Russian involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

Others such as political analyst Sergei Markov claim that the U.S. and Ukrainian secret services carried out the killing in order to cause a popular uprising.

So far, investigators are examining various motives for the murder, including the hypothesis that Nemtsov was a “sacrificial lamb” whose killing was designed to destabilize Russia. Another lead is the involvement of Islamic extremists due to Nemtsov’s support for controversial magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Russian crackdown

If Russia is to be believed, the 2003 and 2004 revolts in Georgia and Ukraine were incited by the U.S., but Kerry maintains that the U.S. is “not involved in multiple color revolutions.”

Protests in Moscow in 2011-2012 provoked a wave of government crackdowns on non-governmental organizations, with those which receive funding from outside of Russia being forced to declare themselves as “foreign agents.”

Golos, a vote-monitoring group that used to receive funding from the States, had to close for a period of time before becoming dependent on the Russian government for support. The Memorial human rights organization was also funded by the U.S., but has successfully resisted attempts to shut it down.

Patrushev also sees the dark hand of U.S. influence in the Middle East. He claims that U.S. efforts to weaken the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have slowed down in order to avoid strengthening Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who is Russia’s biggest ally in the region.