In a fresh attack on Russia’s de factor ruler Vladimir Putin former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev accused him of stalling the country’s progress and having no interest beyond clinging to power.

“I am worried by what the United Russia Party led by Putin is doing and by what the government is doing,” Mr. Gorbachev said, likening Mr. Putin's party to the Soviet Communist party. “They are dragging us back into the past, while the country is in dire need of modernisation.”

Mr. Gorbachev, who turned 80 this year, said in an interview that Mr. Putin sought power for the sake of power only.

“Putin wants to stay in power. But not to solve our core problems with education, health care and poverty and so on."

Mr. Putin, 58, said he and his hand-picked President Dmitry Medvedev, 46, would decide between them who would run for the presidency next March. Many analysts believe Mr. Putin has already launched his election campaign with a series of high-profile activities in recent months.

Mr. Gorbachev lashed out at the Russian political system set up by Mr. Putin.

“They are not asking the people, the parties are puppets of the ruling regime. They have cancelled direct elections of [regional] governors, abolished single-seat constituencies… and are blocking the establishment of new parties.”

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