This piece by NPR blows past one of the realities of modern Russia. It is true--people can and do criticize the government but they are banned from appearing on television in the act of doing so. In effect, you can sit in your kitchen and say what you want; if you try to broadcast that message, you are banned.
What NPR fails to note is that, instead of the gulag, the government merely hires men to shoot the people who are problematic for the regime. Murdering critics is easier than creating a vast pool of dissidents in Siberia. There is no free media in Russia, nor is there anything resembling the rule of law. Do you have any money in Russia? You'd better be on Putin's side.
Putin's third and probable fourth terms are going to be more of the same--repression, misery and corruption.