Gorbachev 'ashamed' of Putin's response to protests
Mikhail Gorbachev has made a withering personal attack on Vladimir Putin on the eve of a large-scale anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow, saying he was ashamed of the Russian prime minister.
In his strongest criticism of the Kremlin yet, the father of perestroika said he was shocked and disappointed by the glib way that Mr Putin had reacted to unprecedented anti-Kremlin protests in recent weeks.
"This is shameful. And embarrassing. I, for example, am ashamed," he said of Mr Putin's dismissive attitude after the prime minister sarcastically likened the protesters' white ribbons to condoms.
"I feel tied to Putin in the sense that at first, when he came to power, I actively supported him everywhere, both here and abroad. And now look," he said in an interview published in 'Novaya Gazeta', a liberal newspaper that he part owns.
The last leader of the former Soviet Union, now aged 80, has become increasingly critical of the Kremlin, but he has largely shied away from direct personal criticism of Mr Putin.
Speaking on the eve of a new protest in Moscow today against an allegedly rigged parliamentary election earlier this month, Mr Gorbachev appeared to have run out of patience.
He had harsh words for Dmitry Medvedev, the outgoing president.
"He said he had no complaints or doubts about the elections. And with that, Dmitry Anatolyevich, I think, pulled the curtain down on his career," he said.
The disputed election saw Mr Putin's ruling United Russia Party register a 15pc drop in its share of the vote, although it managed to hang on to a slim majority in the Duma, the lower house of parliament.
International election monitors and opposition activists have raised serious concerns about the fairness of the vote, however, and tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand a re-run of the fraud-tinged election in the biggest protests of their kind since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Although Mr Medvedev has promised to enact far-reaching reforms that would open up the Russian political system to genuine competition, he and his Kremlin colleagues have resolutely refused to consider holding a new election.
The new parliament held its first session last Wednesday, swiftly electing as speaker a close ally of Mr Putin.
The Kremlin has repeatedly blamed America for orchestrating popular discontent.
Today's protest is being seen as a litmus test for the opposition.
The Kremlin has sanctioned a rally of up to 50,000 people and the precise turnout will be closely watched. (© Daily Telegraph, London)