Russia last year demonstrated "stunning hubris and hostility as it interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory", Freedom House said in its Freedom in the World 2017 report released on January 31.
The report, which classified Russia as "Not Free" with 20 points of a possible 100 (along with Belarus, Vietnam and The Gambia), also notes the country's continuing economic downturn in 2016 and the Kremlin's efforts to avoid potential domestic discontent by "focusing public attention on foreign interventions".
"Authorities continued incorporating Crimea into the administration of the Russian Federation, maintained support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine, and expanded military support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria," the report added.
The authors also note the Russian authorities' continued steps to restrict the activities of civil society groups, including the Levada Centre polling company.
Russia's occupation of Crimea and military support for pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine continued to have a negative as Ukraine continues to recover from the disorder that surrounded the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency in 2014, according to Freedom House.
Meanwhile, the report also pointed out the Ukrainian authorities' failure to prosecute extensive high-level corruption and the little progress in meeting domestic and international demands to investigate and prosecute crimes committed during the last months of the Yanukovych administration in late 2013 and early 2014, which included the shooting of protesters.
Freedom House accorded Ukraine "Partly Free" status with 61 points in the ranking of 210 countries, which was led by Finland, Norway and Sweden with a full 100 points and ended with Syria as the only country with a negative freedom rating of -1.
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