MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin, presenting state awards on Russia's analogue of independence day, has praised the country for democracy and openness.
The comments during a Kremlin ceremony come as criticism continues abroad of Putin for stifling opposition and promoting a culture of truculent and defensive patriotism.
Putin's Friday speech marked Russia Day, which commemorates the 1990 declaration state sovereignty for Russia, when it was one of 15 republics within the Soviet Union. He presented state awards to seven Russians for achievements in the arts, science and humanitarian affairs.
In the quarter-century since the declaration, Russia "has made a successful breakthrough to democracy and a market economy, but also able to establish itself as a modern, open and independent country," Putin said.