President Vladimir Putin angrily rejects foreign advice on democracy
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President Vladimir Putin today angrily rejected what he described as attempts to enforce foreign patterns of democracy on Russia and vowed to preserve the nation's identity against interference from abroad.
Putin's speech was his first state-of-the nation address since winning a third term in March's election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow.
Putin has pursued a tough course on dissent since his inauguration with arrests and searches of opposition activists and introduction of laws that impose heavy fines on protesters and rigid rules on civil society groups.
Speaking to lawmakers, officials and clerics who gathered in the Kremlin's ornate St George's Hall, Putin said Russia would follow its own view on democracy and shrug off any "standards enforced on us from outside."
"Direct or indirect foreign interference in our internal political processes is inadmissible," he said. "Those who receive money from abroad for their political activities and serve alien interests shouldn't engage in politics in Russia."
One of the laws passed by the Kremlin-controlled parliament requires non-governmental organisations that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as "foreign agents," a move the groups said was aimed to intimidate them and destroy their credibility with Russians for whom "agent" is synonymous with "spy."
Putin also pledged to support "institutions that represent traditional spiritual values," a hint at even more state support for the Russian Orthodox Church.
In August, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for performing a protest song in Moscow's main cathedral. One was released on appeal, but two others are serving their sentences despite international outrage.
Moscow' task on the global stage will be to preserve its "national and spiritual identity," Putin said, adding that a strong military should "guarantee Russia's independence and security."