The US-based organization that conducts research in support of democracy, political freedoms and human rights, noted "More aggressive tactics by authoritarian regimes and an upsurge in terrorist attacks contributed to a disturbing decline in global freedom in 2014. Freedom in the World 2015 found an overall drop in freedom for the ninth consecutive year."
The organization also noted "Open disdain for democratic standards that colored the words and actions of autocratic governments during the year. Until recently, most authoritarian regimes claimed to respect international agreements and paid lip service to the norms of competitive elections and human rights. They now increasingly flout democratic values, argue for the superiority of what amounts to one-party rule, and seek to throw off the constraints of fundamental diplomatic principles."
"Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including the outright seizure and formal annexation of Crimea, is the prime example of this phenomenon. The Russian intervention was in direct violation of an international agreement that had guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity. President Vladimir Putin made his contempt for the values of liberal democracy unmistakably clear," the reports reads.
"Over the past year, there were signs that authoritarian regimes were beginning to abandon the quasi-democratic camouflage that allowed them to survive and prosper in the post-Cold War world. Again, the most blatant example is Russia's invasion of Ukraine, whose official justifications included ethnic nationalist, irredentist claims and which quickly drew comparisons to the land grabs of Hitler or Stalin," the reports stresses.
Speaking about Ukraine, the researchers note that positive developments associated with the removal from power of corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych, were offset by Russian annexation of Crimea and the armed hostilities of government forces and Russian backed separatists in the east.
In the reports, Ukraine is rated as "partly free" country. As for the Russian-occupied Crimea, the situation in it is rated as "slightly better" than in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which are among the leaders of "not free" countries.
Of the 195 countries of the world in the study, 89 were described as "free", 55 as "partly free", and 51 as "not free."