From Times Online
November 28, 2007

Gorbachev endorses Putin in election and says Russia is serious partner of West

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, called for Russians to vote for President Putin’s United Russia party in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

“I would vote for him and I support him. Based on what I know, and comparing him with other candidates, I would prefer Putin,” Mr Gorbachev told The Times in an exclusive interview.

Mr Gorbachev’s endorsement of President Putin will surprise his many friends in the West. He was adamant, however, and praised Mr Putin’s handling of the country that he inherited seven years ago. He called on the West to take Russia seriously as a partner.

“It is a fact that within Russia Putin is supported by up to 80 per cent of the population. For me that is a more persuasive argument as I live in Russia.

“He has brought stabilisation to Russia. Not everyone would have been able to cope with the kind of legacy that he inherited from Boris Yeltsin. I did not think he would succeed but he did succeed in preventing total collapse in the country. He began solving some important social and economic problems and re-established governance in Russia. That has opened the way to the possibility of launching real modernisation.”

Human rights groups and Western governments have harshly criticised the increasing authoritarianism of President Putin’s Government, its centralisation of power and its control of broadcast media. Strong concerns remain about corruption, police and army brutality and human rights abuses in Chechnya.

The two men do not seem natural political allies. As Soviet leader from 1985, Mr Gorbachev introduced the ideas of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) and political freedoms. His initial aim was to reform the Soviet Union but he unleashed forces that ultimately led to the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 and the Soviet Union itself in 1991. Mr Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Here is the full story.

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