Moscow, Dec 25: Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned as president 20 years ago on Sunday, urged Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to follow his example and and give up power peacefully.
“I would advise Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) to step down now,” Gorbachev said on Saturday, speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio.
“It has been enough. Three terms - two terms as president and another term as prime minister. Three terms, that's enough. Because, otherwise, the circles (close to powerful leaders) and clans form,” Gorbachev added.
Gorbachev said if Putin stepped down now he would be remembered for the positive things he did during his 12 years in power.
Tens of thousands of Russians jammed a Moscow avenue on Saturday to demand free elections and an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule, in the largest show of public outrage since the protests 20 years ago that brought down the Soviet Union.
Estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from the police figure of 30,000 to 120,000 offered by the organisers. Demonstrators packed much of a broad avenue, which has room for nearly 100,000 people, about 2.5 kilometres (some 1.5 miles) from the Kremlin, as the temperature dipped well below freezing.
“I think there are two very important facts from today's gathering. People have come, and even more (than on December 10), and secondly, they started to talk about what must be done,” Gorbachev said, seated alongside opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov.
Gorbachev, who has grown increasingly critical of Putin, has little influence in Russia today. And while many Russians have grown weary with Putin's rule, his opponents are split among numerous groups. They have no clear leader who could challenge Putin in the March presidential election.