Gorbachev warns Medvedev of Russia's course

10th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday that endemic corruption and freedom restrictions were taking the country toward disaster.

The father of the Soviet Union's perestroika used two articles in the Novaya Gazeta opposition weekly that he partially owns to urge Medvedev to adopt a new "agenda" for Russia that released the country from its past mistakes.

"In 2000, the priority rested on protecting the country's integrity and restoring governance. The people supported a president who set out these goals," Gorbachev said in reference to former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"One can argue about the methods he used and how successfully he acted, but on the whole, these objectives were met," said Gorbachev.

But he told Medvedev that the country has been drifting dangerously ever since.

"The further we go, the more obvious our unresolved problems become. The global crisis escalated these problems, but it did not cause them. It was not responsible for the fact that we are losing the momentum of the democratic process," Gorbachev said.

"The crisis is not what spawned the corruption that has attached itself to all levels of our bureaucracy and which is tearing apart our entire society."

Gorbachev -- who plays only a minor role in modern Russian politics and has aligned himself more closely with the country's liberal opposition in recent years -- has criticised Putin on previous occasions.

But he has said little about the current Kremlin chief's politics since urging him to introduce democratic reforms on his election in 2008 -- a message he repeated on Friday.

"If our anti-democratic processes are not stopped, all the previous years' accomplishments will be endangered," he said.

But Gorbachev appeared particularly critical of the country's repeated failure to diversify its economy away from oil and natural gas.

"We have been moving along on the back of oil and gas, forgetting that these are non-renewable resources -- that they do not last forever," Gorbachev said.

Russia "became stuck in the raw materials, cost-based model of economics. We never stopped the process of de-industrialisation. We divided things up more than we produced them."

Gorbachev, now 79, became general secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the Soviet Union, in March 1985.

In the years afterwards he unveiled his groundbreaking perestroika reforms aimed at liberalizing the Soviet command economy and democratising its authoritarian political system.

But his critics accuse him of unravelling the Soviet Union -- a collapse that was particularly criticised by Putin as president.

© 2010 AFP

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