Putin afraid of his own people: Gorbachev
Moscow: A slew of recent laws that critics claim are intended to crack down on dissent indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "afraid of his own people", former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said.
"I am astonished by the amount of laws," Gorbachev, 82, told BBC. "The common thread running through all of them is an attack on the rights of citizens." Putin has recently signed laws significantly increasing fines for violations of regulations on protests, widening the definition of treason, recriminalising libel, and introducing internet censorship.
Mass protests against alleged electoral fraud in favour of Putin's United Russia party at the December 2011 parliamentary elections gave birth to a broad coalition of groups opposed to the former KGB man's 13-year rule as prime minister and president. A number of protest figures have since been jailed or are facing criminal charges.
Putin denies, however, that a crackdown is underway, saying last year that "everyone" must obey Russia's laws.