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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attack on democracy

29.01.2015

Freedom House has for the ninth consecutive year reported an overall decline in world freedom and names Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s territory as one of the reasons in 2014.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the outright seizure and formal annexation of Crimea, is cited as a prime example of “the open disdain for democratic standards that coloured the words and actions of autocratic governments during the year.”

Freedom House’s Annual Report for 2015 is titled Discarding Democracy: A Return to the Iron Fist.  In his summary of the reports key findings, Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research, points to Russia’s intervention as a shift from the previous lip service authoritarian regimes previously paid to international agreements.

“The Russian intervention was in direct violation of an international agreement that had guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity. President Vladimir Putin made his contempt for the values of liberal democracy unmistakably clear. He and his aides equated raw propaganda with legitimate journalism, treated human rights activists as enemies of the state, and denounced the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community as moral degenerates.”

Ukraine in turmoil, conditions worsen in Central Asia

Events in Eurasia in 2014 were dominated by the upheaval in Ukraine. Gains related to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych through the Euromaidan protests in February, which led to the election of a new president and parliament later in the year, were offset by Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March and ongoing battles with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Crimea, evaluated separately for the first time for Freedom in the World 2015, emerged with a dismal freedom rating of 6.5 on a 7-point scale and a Not Free status, reflecting repressive conditions in which residents—especially Tatars and others who opposed the forced annexation—were deprived of their political rights and civil liberties.

The Russian government coupled its rejection of international pressure over Ukraine with intensified domestic controls on dissent, tightening its grip on the media sector and nongovernmental organizations.

Central Asia also took a turn for the worse in 2014. Kyrgyzstan, typically rated better than its neighbours, suffered from increased government restrictions on freedom of assembly and civil society groups. In Tajikistan, a sustained offensive against political pluralism continued with the persecution of opposition parties and the designation of one opposition movement, Group 24, as an extremist organization.

The government of Azerbaijan similarly renewed its assault on dissent in 2014, targeting traditional media and civil society organizations for legal harassment, arbitrary detention, and physical abuse.

Ratings for the region as a whole are the second worst in the world after the Middle East, and Crimea joins three other Eurasian states—Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—on Freedom House’s list of the world’s most repressive countries and territories for 2014.

Ukraine’s political rights rating rose from 4 to 3 due to improvements in political pluralism, parliamentary elections, and government transparency following the departure of President Viktor Yanukovych. 

Russia’s civil liberties rating declined from 5 to 6 due to expanded media controls, a dramatically increased level of propaganda on state-controlled television, and new restrictions on the ability of some citizens to travel abroad.

Much fuller information and the report can be found here

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