Gorbachev criticizes Putin's Russia as backsliding on democracy
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev chose a painful anniversary – that of the 1991 August Coup, which tried to reverse his democratic reforms – to criticize Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who originally set Russia on its long and troubled march to democracy, says that under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's leadership the country is once again in peril of sliding back into authoritarianism.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Gorbachev made his remarks as Russia approaches the anniversary of a coup designed to overturn his democratic reforms and restore Communist Party rule through force.
The so-called Emergency Committee seized power in Moscow 20 years ago this Friday in a bid to reverse the free elections, media openness, and government decentralization introduced to the Soviet Union by Gorbachev's reforms.
In an interview with the prominent German news magazine Der Spiegel, Mr. Gorbachev appeared to blame Mr. Putin – who is widely believed to be angling for a third presidential term next year – for rolling back some of those reforms two decades later.
"Putin wants to stay in power, but not to resolve at long last our most pressing problems, such as education, public health, and poverty," said Gorbachev. "United Russia [the party led by Putin] wants to maintain the status quo, there is no progress. They are pulling us back into the past, while the country urgently needs modernization.
"People are not consulted, and parties are mere puppets of the regime," he added.
1991 August Coup
In a turbulent 60-hour standoff the August Coup of 1991 was defeated by pro-democracy crowds in Moscow who faced down tanks, as well as by officials across the vast country who abandoned the sinking Soviet bureaucracy and pledged their loyalty to the newly elected Russian administration of anticommunist President Boris Yeltsin.
When the dust settled, much of Gorbachev's vision had been affirmed by events, but the huge multinational state he led, the USSR, as well as his own career, were on a fast track to oblivion.
Gorbachev resigned on Christmas Day 1991, and the red hammer-and-sickle Soviet flag was pulled down from the Kremlin for the last time.