Gorbachev supports Putin, criticises ruling party

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Moscow, Nov 29 (UNI) Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he supported Russian President Vladimir Putin but disliked the ruling party being led by the president in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Russia has made significant progress toward prosperity and stability under Mr Putin's nearly eight-year presidency.

However, human rights advocates worldwide have criticised the party for tightening its grip on democracy and human rights ever since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000.

''I am on Putin's side. I do not hold high respect toward the State Duma. But I think Putin has rendered great service to Russia,'' Ria Novosti quoted Mr Gorbachev as saying.

The former Soviet President, whose policies jump-started democratic reforms in Russia but led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, criticised the ruling United Russia party for ''questionable'' practices in the ongoing parliamentary election campaign.

United Russia had earlier refused to hold televised debates with its rivals and chose to air its own commercials during the allotted time.

Mr Gorbachev also blamed Moscow police for jailing opposition leader Garry Kasparov for five days for taking part in a protest march.

The chess grandmaster was arrested in central Moscow on Saturday while leading a march of opposition group the Other Russia.

UNI

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