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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rights Group Calls Putin a 'Brutal' Leader

Human Rights Watch has called President Vladimir Putin a "repressive" and "brutal" leader on par with the leaders of Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

In its annual report on the state of human rights across the globe released last week, the rights watchdog said Putin had "crippled democracy" and succeeded in "silencing the media, "shutting down civil society" and stifling political opposition.

The report, released late last week, compared Putin to the leaders to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, among others, for "manipulating elections" to "legitimize his reign."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday laughed off the comparisons of Putin to the leaders of third-world countries.

"We take this with a grain of salt because it proves that the report's authors don't know the reality and don't want to know it," Peskov said.

Peskov said the Kremlin "undoubtedly appreciated the work of various nongovernmental organizations" but that it does not always share their opinions.

In the scathing report, Human Rights Watch also blamed the United States and Europe for undermining human rights by allowing autocrats to pretend that they are democratic.

The report cited Russia, along with Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, and Thailand, as acting ''as if simply holding a vote is enough to prove a nation democratic, and Washington, Brussels and European capitals played along.''

Russia, along with Jordan and "even China,'' the group said, have ''gotten into the game'' of merely using the word democracy to claim real democratic credentials.