Feb. 9 - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says Prime Minister Putin is not capable of change when he returns to the presidency. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepares for March presidential elections, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is warning that Putin is not capable of change. Gorbachev spoke at the International University in Moscow. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER SOVIET LEADER MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, SAYING: "Putin will no more be able to cope - bearing in mind this Duma which has been elected, this whole situation, his associates. Because he is left by himself with his associates. I think it is unlikely that he will be able to change his course. But the thing is that the whole system needs to be changed. (We need) systemic changes, and not just some handouts or sporadic steps". Gorbachev, who supported Putin throughout his first term, later became more and more disillusioned with the man who is set to return to Russia's highest office for another 6-year term. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER SOVIET LEADER MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, SAYING: "I don't think you need to vilify him. He managed to do a few useful things, but now it turns out that he has exhausted his resource. It turns out like this." Last Saturday tens of thousands of Russians defied bitter cold to demand fair elections in a march against Putin's 12-year rule. The protest followed similar rallies in December after allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections. Putin could potentially rule the country until 2024. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.