Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has criticized the Russian government and expressed sadness that the country is "going backwards" nearly two decades after the coup that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Speaking Wednesday, two days ahead of the August 19 20th anniversary of the coup that ousted him, Mr. Gorbachev said Russia needs free elections and fresh leadership. The former communist party leader and Soviet president said it is imperative for the people to feel they are included in the process. He recommended restoring direct elections of governors and single-ballot elections to parliament.
Mr. Gorbachev warned against allowing Russia to be ruled by a monopoly and called for, as he put it, "a rotation in the higher ranks."
The coup anniversary comes at a time of increasing uncertainty over who will be Russia's next president after elections next year.
Mr. Gorbachev compared the United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Soviet Communist Party. But he avoided directly criticizing Mr. Putin, crediting him with stabilizing the country after the economic problems and turmoil during Russia's first post-Soviet decade.
Mr. Putin held Russia's presidency from 2000 to 2008 before naming Mr. Medvedev as his hand-picked successor in order to comply with a constitutional ban on a third consecutive presidential term. With Mr. Medvedev elected, Mr. Putin assumed the role of prime minister, but many expect him to try to reclaim the presidency after Mr. Medvedev's term expires.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.