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Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Wednesday, 1 October 2008 12:37 UK

Gorbachev 'forms political party'

Mikhail Gorbachev former Soviet leader, June 2008
Mr Gorbachev stepped down as Soviet leader 17 years ago

Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is forming a new political party, according to a Russian tycoon who says he will team up with the Nobel winner.

Billionaire Alexander Lebedev said the Independent Democratic Party will be a new opposition movement for economic and legal reform and independent media.

Organisers hope the new party will take part in the 2011 elections.

Mr Gorbachev, who stepped down in 1991, last ran in the 1996 presidential election but won barely 1% of votes.

Mr Gorbachev could not be reached for comment but Mr Lebedev issued a statement on his website saying the new party was the 77-year-old former Soviet leader's idea.

"The initiative belongs to President Gorbachev. He gave our people freedom, but we have not learned how to use it," said Mr Lebedev.

Business partners

Although Mr Gorbachev is still admired in the West 17 years after he stepped down as leader, he is not so popular at home for presiding over the break-up of the Soviet Union.

He has in the past criticised the political system put in place by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose popular United Russia party dominates central and regional government in Russia.

This would not be the first joint project between Mr Gorbachev and Mr Lebedev, who is a major shareholder in the Russian airline Aeroflot.

In 2006, the pair bought a 49% stake of an independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, where murdered journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya worked.

Earlier this year Mr Gorbachev and Mr Lebedev called for a national museum to honour victims of Soviet-era repression.

Mr Gorbachev last year set up another political movement, the Union of Social Democrats, a non-governmental organisation.

He won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for allowing peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe after decades of Soviet control.

His far-reaching reforms of the Soviet system accelerated the collapse of communism in the 1980s.




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