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Gorbachev hits out at Putin and United Russia

On the 20th anniversary of the coup d'etat which ultimately brought the Soviet era to a close, Mikhail Gorbachev has launched another attack on Vladimir Putin.

Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, complained that Russia's current rulers have no interest beyond preserving their own power, and likened United Russia to the Communist Party of his era.

In comments which echo remarks earlier this year, he also accused Putin and colleagues of holding the country back.

The drag factor

"They want to drag us back into the past, while the country is in dire need of modernization," Gorbachev told Der Spiegel in an interview cited by Deutsche Welle.

And he urged against Putin returning to the presidency in 2012, saying his prime motive was simply to remain in power, "but not to solve urgent problems".

He was also critical of the opposition, and fired what could be a veiled shot at Mikhail Prokhorov's recently formed Pravoye Delo party.

The billionaire has spoken about becoming the second party in the state Duma, but Gorbachev claimed that "all parties are just puppets in the hands of the regime."

Repeated criticisms

It is far from the first time Gorbachev, whose political stock is rather higher in the west than among many Russians, has been critical of Putin and the current Russian authorities.

In February, around the time of his 80th birthday, the former Communist leader said he was "ashamed" of Russia's elite.

He complained that the on-going mystery Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev created over who will stand for president in 2012 was "conceited" and warned of a possible "Arab spring" sweeping through Russia.

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