Freedom House -- the U.S.-based watchdog group -- issued its annual report on June 12 monitoring democratic development in 29 nations from the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, and Central Europe, saying Russia is playing a "pivotal role" in a continuing decline in democracy among the countries of the post-Soviet sphere
The report shows the average democracy score declined again in the region in 2013, as it has every year for the past decade. Sixteen countries suffered downgrades, five improved, while eight didn't register any changes in score.
In the 12 former Soviet countries that are not members of the EU, democracy has been in "steep decline" for over a decade, leaving nearly 80 percent of the region's population living under what Freedom House calls "consolidated authoritarian regimes."
Those include Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The report says the Kremlin "actively pursued a policy of intensified repression," using a series of new laws to persecute sexual minorities, harass independent civil society, expand state control over the media, and bring the Internet to "heel."