Dec. 24 - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says if he were Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, he would leave office now. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said in a radio interview Saturday that if he were Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, he would leave politics. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, SAYING: "I know Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin personally), and I helped him a lot during the first period of his work. Here and abroad. So I spoke a lot on these issues and supported him. He deserved it then. But afterwards, things started to happen that we couldn't counter." Gorbachev said the Putin era, which began in 1999 has run its course. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, SAYING: "There were three terms: two terms as president, one as prime minister. Three terms. It's enough. It's enough because circles and clans are created around him. There's so much to root out." Gorbachev made the comments on the same day that tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow to demand a rerun of the the disputed Dec. 4 State Duma poll in which Putin's ruling United Russia won a slight majority of the seats. Russian and Western election critics have said even the slim margin of victory was a result of election irregularities. The popularity of the former KGB spy, who has remained Russia's paramount leader, has dropped since he and President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans in September to swap jobs next year. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters