A city court building is seen through its gate in Moscow, September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
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Russian businessmen are backing Vladimir Putin over Ukraine but fear the country is being forced down a path toward less democracy, more central control of the economy and isolation that recalls the Soviet "evil empire".There is no hiding the growing alarm over the state of the economy and Russia's increasing isolation from the West, despite attempts led by Putin to develop business and political ties with Asia and boost domestic industry.Russia's economy was already slowing this year when the United States and the European Union started imposing sanctions on leading companies, officials and banks to try to force Moscow to change policy in Ukraine.Now economic growth has stalled and analysts say Russia faces years of stagnation, with even a government forecast of 0.5 percent growth this year being seen as optimistic by some.While more than a quarter of Russians see colonization of their country by foreigners as the greatest threat to the nation in polls, Putin's popularity rating has stood at over 80 percent since Russia annexed Crimea.Many are drawing up several plans based on different estimates of the big "unknown" – how long sanctions will be in place on Russia.
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