MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has criticized Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for his recent suggestion of a return to the presidency in 2012.
In an interview with the BBC released on Sunday, Gorbachev was highly complimentary over Putin's achievements in power, but said the country's future must be decided by the people.
When asked earlier this month whether he would be running for the presidency in 2012, Putin told the Valdai Discussion Club that he would reach an agreement with President Dmitry Medvedev "because we are of the same blood and of the same political outlook."
Gorbachev said: "I believe that Prime Minister Putin's raising of the subject of 2012 is premature. Moreover, in this conversation, everything came down to 'we'll sit down and reach an agreement'. But if an agreement is to be reached with anyone, it is with the electorate, with the people. But the people were absent from this conversation. I do not think this is right."
He criticized the ruling pro-Kremlin party, but said Russia needs more time to develop democratic institutions.
"I would call United Russia a bad copy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Of course, we need to proceed along the route of democratic change. The Americans, who built their democracy over 200 years, want us to build ours in 200 days."
Gorbachev credited Putin with restoring stability to the country.
"What has happened in recent years, particularly the first years of Putin's leadership, has been successful. Despite all the shortcomings, of which there have been many. Putin inherited a very difficult country, under threat of break-up and destruction. He restored stability."
However, he said that freedom and democracy remain the keys to future development.
"Questions of modernization - in the economy, in the social sphere, and in culture - cannot be decided without the involvement of the people, and without increasing civil liberties. And this cannot be done through pressure, commands, and administrative methods, but only through the further development of democracy. The people must be involved in this," he said.