Mikhail Gorbachev denounces Putin's 'attack on rights'


Mikhail Gorbachev tells the BBC's Steve Rosenberg that Mr Putin's entourage is full of "corrupt officials"

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has denounced laws passed in Russia as an "attack on the rights of citizens".

In an interview with the BBC he called on President Vladimir Putin "not to be afraid of his own people".

Mr Gorbachev also criticised Mr Putin's inner circle, saying it was full of "thieves and corrupt officials".

The laws include fines for organising unsanctioned protests, stiffer libel penalties, a wider definition of treason and restrictions on websites.

In January, Human Rights Watch accused President Putin of unleashing "the worst political crackdown in Russia's post-Soviet history" since returning to the Kremlin for a third term in May 2012.

The group also said he had overseen "the swift reversal of former President Dmitry Medvedev's few, timid advances on political freedoms".

A number of opposition leaders have been arrested since anti-government protests began to be staged in Moscow and other big cities following disputed parliamentary elections in December 2011.

'Soured' relations

Mr Gorbachev, who is 82 and in poor health, is still determined to speak his mind about what is happening in his country.

He said he was "astonished" by the number of controversial laws passed in Russia since Mr Putin's return to the presidency.

Start Quote

If things don't change, Russia will continue to drift like a piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean”

End Quote Mikhail Gorbachev Former Soviet leader

"The common thread running through all of them is an attack on the rights of citizens. For goodness sake, you shouldn't be afraid of your own people," he told the BBC.

"What people want and expect their president to do is to restore an open, direct dialogue with them. He shouldn't take offence at this.

"He should concentrate on trying to drag Russia out of the difficult situation that she is in."

Mr Gorbachev said he had supported Mr Putin during his first term in office, but relations had since "soured".

The two men rarely speak and have had no direct meetings for more than a year.

"I've criticised him a lot in public. He sometimes loses his temper. Once he said that 'Gorbachev's tongue should be cut short'.

"I get the feeling he's very tense and worried. Not everything is going well. I think he should change his style and make adjustments to the regime."

Despite the criticism, Mr Gorbachev believes Mr Putin's entourage is effective at keeping him in power and reducing the risk of a coup or rebellion.

"Putin's entourage is the right one for him. He selected it and it works the way he wants it to," he said.

"Even the inner circle, those by his side, there are so many thieves and corrupt officials there. If things don't change, Russia will continue to drift like a piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean."

Stalin comparison

Mr Gorbachev, however, is not immune from criticism.

Many Russians blame him for the collapse of the Soviet regime as a superpower.

But more than 20 years after the fall of the USSR, Mr Gorbachev refuses to take the blame.

"I'm often accused of of giving away Central and Eastern Europe. But who did I give it to? I gave Poland, for example, back to the Poles. Who else does it belong to?"

Last year, an opinion poll posed the question: Under whose rule did Russia experience mostly positive development.

Vladimir Putin came top, Mikhail Gorbachev came bottom, below Joseph Stalin.

Mr Gorbachev, though, feels that attitudes are changing.

"First of all, my new book is a total sell-out; then there are all the letters I'm getting from people. They write: 'Why are we searching for heroes when we have Gorbachev who opened up so many new opportunities for us and stood firm, no matter how much pressure he came under.'

"I have a feeling that the young generation today, which is cultured and educated, is changing the whole picture."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Gorbachev is a joke.. the west has problems if people find his word credible !

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    "Us in Britain will not mind our business when people are being stamped on by one pathetic man!"

    How about sucking up to the oil rich arab states who have zero human rights LOL

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Well said Gorby - still got your finger on the pulse after all these years. You truly are one of life's genuine giants.

    Shame the same can't be said of the Govt. Ministers agitating to remove human rights protection in Britain (so they can do stuff like Putin does presumably?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.


    You clearly do not know what a Basket Case is. Has the UK banned Homosexuals from being themselves? No theyve just moved in equality. Has the UK banned the USA from adopting children because they dont like the country? No. How about the corruption,the sexism,the religous control. Us in Britain will not mind our business when people are being stamped on by one pathetic man!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Look who’s talking. The country with the unelected head of state, the prime minister whose life was paid for by his father and who have never been in proper employment, the corrupt parliament who cares about their toilet paper rolls more than about their people, thieves bankers who stole billions of public money, etc LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Interesting, but heavily one sided.

    One question: If Gorbachov's politics were really positive for USSR and Russia's development, why has he left his beloved country for UK? Because he is afraid of current regime?
    Or because his politics are recognised as heavily damaging and unpopular.
    Remember, it was after his term when young Russia defolted and suffered her worst financial crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Putin is a former KGB spy whose field of operation was East Germany. He now rules as Czar to a people who are as browbeaten as they ever were. In the mid-late 90s, when I lived there, Russia was a scary place, with corruption a way of life. It seems that it has got even worse since then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    My last trip to Russia last year showed a country whose citizens live in fear. They cannot be themselves,Putin lords over them and punishes those who disagree and those whom he is afraid of. My Russian neighbour has just decided to have her mother come and live with her in Britain,as she cannot bear to think that she is there being controlled. Cameron is the Dalai Lama by comparison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    one day people will realise what a fantastic job mr gorbochev did for his people and the world at large at a time when there were great tensions around

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It is a bit rich coming from a man who brought Russia to it knees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Well, Putin was in the KGB and Russia is reverting at a rate of knots back to its "communist" ways under the guise of "democracy".

    What do you expect? Putin had to stand down as President, so he became PM and Medvedev, his puppet, President. Then at the last elections, Putin stood again for President.

    Putin as not what I would call, a democrat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    glasnost and perestroika.
    These were the words Gorbachov gave us..
    We forget that he was probably more of a communist than Putin is.
    He wanted to keep the communist state going through embracing change.
    Unfortunately he couldn't control the forces of change that were unleashed.
    And now we have Putin, after a brief misadventure with Yeltsin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It would be great if Russia could have true democracy and a free and fair society. It would be great if we in the west could have this too. At the moment we have only an increasingly shabby illusion. More power to Mikhail Gorbachev for pointing this out. History will show that he was always a brave friend of the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Mr Gorbachev is not well. What does he hope to achieve with this attack on Putin? I suspect his condition is sour grapes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Russia's leadership is going back to the secret days of the Soviet Union. They are now trying to once again control freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and every day freedoms that they once took for granted before Putin clamped down on the average Russian. It is as if the West doesn't count very much in Putin's eyes. He is taking Russian back to the cold war days, and forming new alliances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    For those people who criticise Putin, I say where does democracy UK style get you, people elect 50 years of useless politicians who have completely ruined the UK and turned it into a basket case. Be careful what you wish for Russians and Brits mind your business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "Julian Rawle
    Secondly, Russia has no democratic tradition"

    That's a nonsense argument. Most of Western and Central Europe had no democratic tradition until the revolutions of 1848 and most of them had to wait until 1918, 1945 or even 1990 before actually having it delivered. Most of the world has no democratic tradition either but the pre-requisistes and benefits are understood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Another discussion forum on BBC to raise hatred of peoples to Russia and China. Why don't we discussion about economic situation in Britain or how American soldiers mistreated dead body in Afghanistan?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    We all have our battles against cropped politicians, Haw can we criticize Russia. 2012 UK pays 3.5m USD tax payers money to stop legal battle for torture and kidnaping.Obama Guantanamo torture center to be kept open ( election promise broken ) 2012 EU miss appropriating farmers subsides Sorry you Russian's but our world is managed by people above any law or control, You'v lost your country again


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