Russia only halfway on the road to democracy – Gorbachev

RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov
The last leader of the Soviet Union and the father of Perestroika said that Russia still had many unsolved problems with democracy and human rights.

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Monday, Mikhail Gorbachev remarked that the existing problems with human rights in the Russian Federation were an indicator of the country’s current state of democracy. “We have everything – a parliament, courts, a president and a prime minister, but these all are to a larger extent an imitation. There is no effective work,” the former Soviet President said.

Gorbachev criticized the domination of the United Russia party in the parliament saying that any monopoly leads to stagnation, hampering the development of the democratic processes. “United Russia reminds me of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in its worst years,” Gorbachev said. He also said that in his view any elected official must stay in office for no more than two terms.

This was in response to a reporter’s question about the political situation in the Central Asia, but Russia’s leaders also received their share of criticism from Gorbachev. Conveying his opinion on President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, Gorbachev said he did not like their approach to the forthcoming presidential elections. “I think it is far from being modest when Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] says that they will sit down with Dmitry Anatolievich [Medvedev] and choose who will run for president. This is for the voters to decide, not Putin,” Gorbachev said.

Gorbachev answered more questions on the current political climate in Russia and around the globe. In particular, he said that he supported the removal of Vladimir Lenin’s body from the Mausoleum on the Red Square, but said that this should be done at some later stage. “We should settle down, remain calm and part with a great man – and he was a great man of our nation, the builder of our state,” Gorbachev said about Lenin.

He also said that he never made any promises to hand over the Kuril Islands to Japan and the two countries must solve their territorial spat at the negotiation table. At the same time, Gorbachev said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had made some promises to Japan on the Kuril issue, but these promises were only valid, if Japan signed a peace treaty with Russia. “Let us go all the way and see what happens then. It is possible that we form a confederation,” the former Soviet leader said.

Also Gorbachev ruled out the possibility that the current riots and revolutions in Arab states had been instigated from abroad. He said that the main reason of the events was the main human factor – the will for freedom.

In the end, the former Soviet President said that he planned to celebrate his 80th anniversary in Moscow and that all “top bosses” were invited. “It is up to them whether they choose to come, but I will invite them,” Gorbachev said and expressed hope that his anniversary will give different people a chance to meet and communicate.