Mikhail Gorbachev returns to politics

September 30, 2008

In a move that will delight many old Cold War warriors, but more importantly critics of Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev (pictured) is to return to Russian politics. The author of Glasnost and Perestroika, who is now 77, has announced that he and business partner Alexander Lebedev, a former ex-KGB officer turned billionaire banker, are forming a political party to contest parliamentary elections in 2011.

While Gorbachev has championed freedom of speech, he has, thus far, conspicuously avoided direct criticism of the macho Russian prime minister. However, those expecting tanks on the lawn of the Kremlin and a challenge to Putin’s authoritarian style of politics will probably be disappointed. Lebedev, 48, says his party, called the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, will be the “polite” opposition, eschewing the tactics of former chess champion Garry Kasparov’s The Other Russia movement, which was banned from contesting last year’s parliamentary election.

But he also insisted that his party would not be a toothless cipher and would be prepared to criticise Putin when necessary. Said Lebedev: “Even if I’m polite and politically correct, it’s absolutely clear that there are things on which we disagree.”

Here is the full story.

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