Mikhail Gorbachev calls Russian democracy a mockery

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In his most outspoken comments since he resigned as the last Soviet leader in 1991, Mr Gorbachev fiercely criticised the ruling United Russia party led by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, and said that genuine political debate was now confined to Russia's tiny liberal press.

"In the eyes of everybody, elections have been turned into a mockery of people and a symbol of disrespect for their choices," he said.

"The electoral system has been maimed." His comments, made in an interview with Novaya Gazeta, a liberal newspaper he parts owns, follow local elections earlier this month that Kremlin opponents called the dirtiest in living memory.

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