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Russia Rejects U.S. Criticism Of Proposed Reforms

15 September 2004 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today rejected U.S. criticism of sweeping political changes proposed by President Vladimir Putin, calling the plans strictly an "internal matter."

The remarks from Lavrov, speaking from Astana, came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described Putin's recent call for a strengthening of central government powers in Russia as a step back from democratic reforms.

Putin said the changes are needed to combat terrorism in the wake of a recent series of terrorist attacks. But Powell, on 14 September, said the fight against terrorism should not be a reason to weaken democracy.

"In an attempt to go after terrorists I think one has to strike a proper balance to make sure that you don't move in a direction that takes you away from the democratic reforms or the democratic process that you are committed to," Powell said.

Lavrov today described Powell's comments as "strange." Lavrov accused Powell of suggesting that "democracy can only be copied from someone's model."

Powell's criticism was echoed today by the European Union. EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said the fight against terrorism "does not justify or excuse" the violation of human rights.