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President Vladimir Putin’s hard stance on Russia’s civil society is an issue of concern for the European Union (EU). The Kremlin’s clampdown on civil society not only affects those directly opposed to the regime, but also the most active, educated and modernising sectors of Russian society. EU leverage over democratic reforms and human rights in Russia is limited, and economic interests tend to override the promotion of values in relations with Moscow. Progress on the visa liberalisation process, further support for civil society initiatives and more goals-oriented human rights consultations can help support democratic reform in Russia.

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