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
"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.