Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on March 30 that Russian politics has "increasingly turned into imitation."
The 82-year-old Gorbachev said Russia "needs a new system of governance."
He criticized President Vladimir Putin for marginalizing opponents rather than engaging them and for using bellicose rhetoric in foreign relations in order to convince Russians their country is besieged by external enemies.
He said the authorities have "managed to beat down" the latest wave of public protests, but warned that they will return unless Putin makes changes.
Over the past week, Russian law enforcement officials have conducted searches at dozens of nongovernmental organizations around the country in a move activists say is designed to intimidate them.
Based on reporting by Reuters and RIA-Novosti