Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Gorbachev alarm at Soviet echoes

The last leader of Sovet Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev decries his successors as 'bureaucrats'

The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, has given some of his strongest criticism yet of the politics of modern Russia.

He says the United Russia party of the current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, behaves like the old-style Communists.

"I criticise United Russia a lot," said Mr Gorbachev, "I do it directly."

He also said Russia's judicial system was not properly constitutional and dismissed members of its parliament as not truly independent.

"United Russia is a party of bureaucrats," he said, in an interview with the American news organisation, Associated Press. "It is the worst version of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."

Berlin wall, 1989
The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 heralded the end of the Soviet empire

Mr Gorbachev was speaking as the countries of Eastern and Central Europe look towards the 20th anniversary this year of the fall of Communism in Europe, as symbolised by the smashing of the Berlin wall.

The BBC correspondent in Moscow, James Rodgers, says that although Mr Gorbachev is respected throughout the world for his role in ending the Cold War, many Russians more readily associate him with the economic hardship that accompanied the end of Communism.

Mr Gorbachev himself now says he did not foresee that his policies of openness and reform - "glasnost" and "perestroika" - would lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"I was a resolute opponent of the break-up," he said, expressing the hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus might again re-join Russia in a political union.

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