Foes say Putin turned clock back on 1991 coup anniversary

August 20, 2012 00:56

MOSCOW - Kremlin foes criticized Vladimir Putin on Sunday at events commemorating the defeat of a coup that hastened the 1991 Soviet collapse, saying the Russian president had reversed progress toward democracy that seemed unstoppable 21 years ago.

Opposition politicians and everyday Russians said the two-year jail sentences handed down to punk performers Pussy Riot for a protest against Putin in a cathedral were part of a crackdown that evoked Soviet-era show trials and scare tactics.

"The situation with democracy is substantially worse than it was, say, 15 years ago," said Ivan Preobrazhensky, 31, who came with his wife and 5-year-old daughter to place a flower at a modest memorial to three young men who died opposing the coup.

"We are moving toward authoritarianism and totalitarianism," he said, calling the Pussy Riot verdict part of a series of steps to crush dissent since Putin, in power since 2000, won a new presidential term in March.

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