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Gorbachev: Russia Moving Backward Since 1991, Needs Change


Mikhail Gorbachev in March 2011

Mikhail Gorbachev in March 2011

The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, has criticized the Kremlin for taking Russia backward and says that the Kremlin needs free elections and fresh leadership.

Gorbachev spoke at a news conference ahead of the 20th anniversary of August 19, 1991, coup that briefly ousted him and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He criticized the United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, which he described as a bad copy of the Soviet Communist Party. Gorbachev called for "change in the upper layer of government."

He said Russia needed to restore what he called "honest elections," direct elections of governors and of individual seats in parliament, which were abolished during Putin's presidency.

"People need to feel that they have a say and are not just being fed baloney," Gorbachev said. "And [the authorities] keep inventing unnecessary organizations and fronts."

Gorbachev, however, avoided personal criticism of Putin, saying that he deserved credit for stabilizing the country after the economic meltdown and chaos of the first post-Soviet decade.

Putin, who shifted into the prime minister's job in 2008 because of a two-term constitutional limit, is widely expected to reclaim the presidency.

compiled from news agency reports
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