Ex-Soviet Leader Warns Putin Cannot Save Russia

Posted February 9th, 2012 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is warning political unrest in Russia will only get worse if Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is elected president.

Gorbachev told students at a Moscow University Mr. Putin has “exhausted” his potential as leader. He also said it would be difficult for Mr. Putin to change the country's direction, especially because he is surrounded only by his associates and cronies.

Mr. Gorbachev said Russia needs “systemic changes, and not just some handouts or sporadic steps.'' He warned that protests will spill into the streets, like with the Arab Spring, if reforms do not come more quickly.

The former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, best known for policies like “glasnost” and “perestroika” , initially supported Mr. Putin, but has grown increasingly critical of his ability to lead.

Mr. Putin is seen as the heavy favorite to win Russia's presidential election in March, despite opposition rallies that have been growing in size and frequency.