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Medvedev rebuffs Gorbachev's warning of 'Egyptian scenario' in Russia. Who's right?

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is outspoken about Russia's vulnerabilities to 'the Egyptian scenario' – something the Kremlin denies.

By Correspondent / February 22, 2011

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gestures during a news conference in Moscow, Monday, Feb. 21. Gorbachev, said that Russia has only 'imitations' of a parliament and judicial system. Gorbachev criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his protege President Dmitry Medvedev for saying that they will decide between them who should run for president in Russia's March 2012 presidential vote.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP

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Moscow

A week after former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the winds of change now blowing through the Middle East could yet whip up a storm in Russia, the nation's current president vowed that uprisings in the Arab world will not be repeated here.

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In comments that betrayed Kremlin nervousness, President Dmitry Medvedev today warned that the pro-democracy wave sweeping Egypt and other countries could bring "extremists" to power.

"Let us face the truth," Mr. Medvedev said, "they have prepared such a scenario for us too, and they will try to carry it out. But this scenario will not pass." He did not elaborate on who "they" might be.

To be sure, Russia is very different from the Middle Eastern societies currently seething with pro-democracy turmoil, but nagging parallels are beginning to worry many in the country's top elite. And who better to make those comparisons explicit than Mr. Gorbachev, the man who tried to foster democracy in the former USSR before being swept from power by the very forces he had unleashed?

"If things continue the way they are, I think the probability of the Egyptian scenario will grow," Gorbachev said in a radio interview last week. "But here it could end far worse."

Gorbachev outspoken in criticisms

Gorbachev has grown increasingly outspoken about Russia's vulnerabilities to Egypt-like unrest, warning in the past that Russia could collapse without sweeping democratic reforms. He describes Russia as a throwback to Soviet times, with muzzled media, sham elections, a Potemkin parliament, a Kremlin monopoly of power, and a corrupt ruling party that's a "bad copy" of the former Soviet Communist Party.

In a Moscow press conference Monday, Gorbachev slammed the political system built by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an elaborate fraud. "We have everything – a parliament, courts, a president, and a prime minister, but these all are to a great extent just an imitation," he said. In another interview he said that Russia's democratic facade is a "cover for arbitrary rule and [official] abuse ... society has been broken, it's accepted the falsehoods."

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