Gorbachev praises democratic Russia

Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev (AFP Photo / Scott Olson)
There are more free people in Russia than ever before, believes former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.

­“People have deserved freedom. They have right to determine their own fate and the fate of their country,” he said receiving Russia’s highest award, the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called from President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday.

He also noted that authorities need dialogue with people who have recently taken to the streets for election protests.

“Don’t push these people away. Don’t see them as enemies,” Gorbachev said. “We need free political competition without division in society.”

The politician also said that it is new leaders and today’s civil activists who are now laying the foundations for Russia’s future.

“I would like to express strong belief in the democratic future of our country,”
he outlined.

Talking about his role in history, he said that he and his supporters made impossible the return to the totalitarian past. They wanted “great changes without great blood,” although were not able to avoid blood completely, Gorbachev acknowledged.

The Order of St. Andrew the First-Called was the highest award in the Russian Empire. In the country’s modern history, it was restored by President Boris Yeltsin in 1998. Among the honorees are such prominent people as scientist and human right activist Dmitry Likhachyov, rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov and writer Aleksandr Solzhentsyn.