Oct 27, 2010

Former Soviet Union president Mikhail S. Gorbachev accuses Putin of obstructing democracy in Russia

Former Soviet Union president Mikhail S. Gorbachev has expressed his growing frustration with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and accused him of undermining the country's fledgling democracy by crippling the opposition forces.

"He thinks that democracy stands in his way. I am afraid that they have been saddled with this idea that this unmanageable country needs authoritarianism," the New York Times quoted Gorbachev, as saying referring to Putin and President Dmitri A. Medvedev.

"They think they cannot do without it," Gorbachev added.

Gorbachev described Putin's governing party, United Russia, as a "a bad copy of the Soviet Communist Party."

He said party officials were concerned entirely with clinging to power and did not want Russians to take part in civic life.

Gorbachev was especially disparaging of Putin's decision in 2004, when he was president, to eliminate elections for regional governors and the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Kremlin appointees now fill those positions.

"Democracy begins with elections. Elections, accountability and turnover," the former Soviet president said.

Gorbachev was giving interviews this month to promote a benefit concert that his foundation is sponsoring in March in honor of his 80th birthday.

The foundation runs a research center and has raised millions of dollars for charities for children with cancer. (ANI)