George Soros has announced an official end to his direct philanthropic work in Russia, shifting the focus of his New York City-based Open Society Institute to what he considers more pressing problems to be tackled in the United States, the Moscow Times reports.
"This is an emotional moment for me," Soros told a press conference at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, which was created with funding from the billionaire financier and philanthropist. "The foundation as you know it is coming to an end." Soros's involvement in Russia began in 1988, when he went to the then Soviet Union after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had invited dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov to return from exile. Sensing an imminent sea change in the country, Soros decided to act. Now, having spent fifteen years and $1 billion, Soros is leaving Russia with fifteen Open Society Institute programs, all of which eventually will become independent entities, operating and attracting funding on their own.
Soros is turning his attention instead to U.S. issues. "I was led to come to Russia because of my concern for a prospering open society," he said. "But now I have to concentrate on what goes on in America. The fight for an open society now has to be fought there." In particular, he expressed concern about the state of the U.S. media and the Bush administration's handling of the crisis in Iraq.