U.S.-based rights watchdog Freedom House has warned that Hungary and Ukraine are at the forefront of an antidemocratic drive that could lead to what the group calls the "Putinization" of young European democracies.
The group said in its "Nations in Transit 2012" report that steps away from democracy in the two states have raised questions about the strength of the Europe's postcommunist democracies.
Freedom House singles out Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for "systematically breaking down critical checks and balances" and pursuing the "Putinization" -- referring to the strongman-style of longtime Russian leader Vladimir Putin -- of their governments.
The report said democratic reforms have stalled over the past years in most Balkan states.
Declines were also noted in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and in Russia, where Putin recently was inaugurated for a third presidential term after spending four years as prime minister.