Vladimir Putin has done a lot for Russia. After the chaos of the 1990s, it was vital to consolidate the state and prevent its breakup. Under such conditions, a leader has to take certain steps of an authoritarian nature, although some of them were avoidable for instance, the restrictive changes in the election laws and controls over electronic media. I disagree with those who say Putin has retreated from democracy. He has not crossed the line that would turn Russia's system into an authoritarian regime.
I commend Putin's decision not to run for President a third time. And I see nothing wrong in his desire to influence events even after the end of his term. That's his right and Russia will need his experience to smooth our transition to a fully sustainable democracy.
There are many challenges ahead. While there is real growth in the economy, there is also inflation, a huge income gap and persistent poverty. The stranglehold of bureaucracy is becoming unbearable; the battle against corruption has yet to start. The authorities are not doing enough to fight organized crime.
We need an effective opposition, accountable government and a greater role for parliament and the judiciary. We also need understanding from our partners. Unfair criticism and unwarranted demands of Russia are not conducive to good relations with the West. But I am convinced that Russia will make new strides on the path of democracy, in a manner that befits a world power: without upheaval or revolutions and with dignity.