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Gorbachev criticizes putin for anti democratic measures { February 3 2005 }

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Gorbachev lashes out at Putin
February 3, 2005

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has turned on President Vladimir Putin, criticising the Kremlin chief for abandoning the path of reform, and warning of an anti-democratic threat.

Mr Gorbachev, the father of reforms in the late 1980s that helped end the Cold War and ultimately led to the break-up of the Soviet Union, has until now defended Mr Putin against Western accusations of authoritarianism.

But in an appearance at his Gorbachev Foundation, he lashed out at the Government's handling of mass protests over welfare cuts and said the achievements of Mr Putin's first term were being wasted away since his re-election last March.

"During Putin's first term, he managed to achieve stability and make the country more governable, which opened the way to realising the program he spoke about and which I termed social-democratic," he said.

"But now we see that everything is going into reverse. If the President gets the right to serve another term only to increase his power, people will be disillusioned," he said.

Mr Gorbachev's comments came as a senior aide to Mr Putin, Igor Ivanov, former foreign minister and now secretary of Mr Putin's Security Council, urged the Kremlin to map out a vision of where it was leading the country.

He said growing public distrust in the authorities was threatening Russia's stability and national security.

Mr Putin has repeatedly said he does not plan to change the constitution to allow a third presidential term, but commentators say that with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, such a step is possible.

Discussing the replacement of Soviet-era benefits for the elderly and others with cash payments, Mr Gorbachev said a lack of public consultation was to blame for the huge street protests the change provoked.

"I believe this measure could have been made effective but people were excluded from its preparation," he said.

Mr Gorbachev condemned the crackdown on alleged ringleaders of the social unrest, which has produced protests across the country by tens of thousands of senior citizens. "In my view, such behaviour towards the elderly can only provoke indignation in a normal person," he said.

- AP

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