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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Frets About Russia

BRUSSELS -- The U.S. State Department's point man on Russia on Wednesday said Washington was concerned about democracy under President Vladimir Putin and disappointed over relations with Moscow.

"The trends unfortunately are not going in the right direction," said David Kramer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. "We hope those trends will not continue," he said.

Kramer spoke to reporters in Brussels ahead of talks with European Union officials to coordinate policy toward Russia and the EU's other former-Soviet neighbors.

He said Washington's concerns included an increasing concentration of power in Putin's Kremlin, growing state influence over the media, the unsolved killings of journalists, pressure on opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations, the arrest of critical ­business tycoons and continued ­human rights violations in ­Chechnya.

"We don't have quite the partnership I think we aspired to when [U.S. President George W. Bush] came into office and ­President Putin was elected," Kramer acknowledged.

"I wouldn't describe it as a tense relationship. It's a complicated relationship."

Kramer expressed concern about the recent appointment of Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov as president of Chechnya. Kadyrov, 30, and his security forces have been accused by human-rights groups of numerous violations.

"We hope the situation there stabilizes, but the new president of Chechnya doesn't bode very well for that, I fear," Kramer said.