Moscow, Sept.30 : Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev has announced he will be making a political comeback after almost 17 years.
The author of Glasnost and Perestroika, now 77, revealed that he and business partner Alexander Lebedev, a maverick ex-KGB officer turned billionaire banker, would form a political party to contest parliamentary elections in 2011.
While Gorbachev has championed freedom of speech in a country where journalists are frequently harried or even killed for opposing the authorities, he has conspicuously avoided direct criticism of Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister.
Yet he and Lebedev described the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, the working title of the new movement, as an opposition group.
The Russian parliament, the State Duma, has three opposition parties but two are thought to be creations of the Kremlin.
The third, the Communist Party, rarely opposes the government on issues of substance.
The Telegraph quoted Lebedev as saying that his party will be the "polite" opposition, eschewing the firebrand tactics of former chess champion Garry Kasparov's The Other Russia movement, which was banned from contesting last year's parliamentary election.
He, however, insisted that his party would not be a toothless cipher and would be prepared to criticize Putin when necessary.
Gorbachev and Lebedev, who is 48, have become close after taking over a 49 percent stake in Novaya Gazeta, Russia's last genuinely opposition newspaper.
How marketable the duo is to the Russian public, 88 percent of whom approve of Putin according to opinion polls, is a matter for some doubt.
Blamed for causing the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev is widely reviled in Russia.
As a billionaire ranked the 358th richest man in the world last year by Forbes Magazine, Lebedev belongs to the unpopular caste of oligarchs.