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Russian MPs demand Gorbachev trial over Soviet collapse

image copyrightReuters
image captionMikhail Gorbachev has been the target of several prosecution attempts

Five members of Russia's parliament have called for the former president, Mikhail Gorbachev, to be prosecuted over the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr Gorbachev said the "absurd" demand was driven by a hunger for publicity.

The deputies - including two from President Vladimir Putin's party - say they were motivated by recent events, particularly the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine was one of 14 countries that gained independence from Moscow when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.

Mr Gorbachev was the architect of policies, known as perestroika and glasnost, that sought to reform the communist system in the years preceding its collapse.

'Treason of national interests'

The deputies who have demanded Mr Gorbachev's prosecution say he defied the wishes of the people by allowing the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

They argue that Soviet citizens had voted in a referendum to preserve the union.

"We asked to prosecute him and those who helped him destroy the Soviet Union for betrayal of national interests," Ivan Nikitchuk, a Communist Party lawmaker, told AFP news agency.

He is quoted as saying that the destruction led to conflicts in the former Soviet countries, including Ukraine.

Mr Gorbachev dismissed the demand for his prosecution as an "absolutely unreasonable request from the historical point of view".

The office of the prosecutor general has not commented on the request.

Previous attempts to bring Mr Gorbachev to trial - launched by the Russian Communist Party - have not been successful.

Mr Nikitchuk told AFP that the latest attempt had been given urgency by the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine's pro-Moscow leader, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown in an uprising in February, triggered by his refusal to sign a deal that would have strengthened ties with the European Union.

The peninsula of Crimea, home to many Russian-speakers, responded by voting to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, in a move widely condemned abroad.

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