Condoleezza Rice criticized the "concentration of power" in the Kremlin today and pledged support to human rights activists, the BBC reported. In Russia for already-tense talks on a proposed missile defense shield, Rice also questioned the independence of the judiciary. One rights leader, however, said the stain of Guantanamo Bay and Abu-Ghraib brings accusations of the pot calling the kettle black.
Despite Rice’s warnings about eroding personal freedoms, polls show that most Russians back Vladimir Putin’s iron fist, Reuters says. The comments come as Western governments are increasingly criticizing the decline of democracy in Russia. Rice told the rights activists she wanted to help build institutions to counter-balance the Russian presidency but said she hadn’t discussed the issue with Putin.