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Former Prime Minister Criticizes Russia's Course --> 24 February 2005 -- Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov today harshly criticized Russia's current political and economic course and said he would not rule out running for the presidency.

Speaking to reporters, Kasyanov said Russia must be grounded in democratic values, a market economy, principles of private property, and political pluralism.

Kasyanov, a proponent of economic reform, stepped down as prime minister in February last year after a request by Putin in a government shake-up before the president's reelection.

Mikhail Fradkov replaced Kasyanov as prime minister. His government has come under harsh public criticism for implementing a program that has replaced in-kind benefits for pensioners, the disabled, and other needy Russians with cash payments.