Kremlin defends Russia's democracy

Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin's deputy chief of staff and main ideologue, rejected the term "managed democracy" to describe the model. Russia's form, he told reporters, is "sovereign democracy."

Surkov, 41, a one-time associate of now-jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, joined the Kremlin administration under President Boris Yeltsin in 1999. He is credited with the Kremlin's careful cultivation of the United Russia party, the force that is united mostly by absolute loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and is the overwhelmingly dominant force in parliament. He is also believed to be the spiritual father of several successive pro-Putin youth parties, and leads the Kremlin's efforts to bring up new government cadres, according to the AP.

Rights advocates and foreign governments have increasingly criticized the rollback of democracy in Russia, including increasing state control over broadcast media, growing constraints on non-governmental organizations and opposition political parties. That criticism has only gotten more pointed ahead of next month's summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies, which Putin is chairing in St. Petersburg.