Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev today called for the Russian government to address protesters’ allegations that Sunday’s elections, which returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency, had been stolen, according to Reuters.
Though monitors and observers said the vote was unfair, governments and most other candidates have accepted results which gave Putin 63.6 percent, or 45.5 million of the ballots cast.
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Nearly 600 demonstrators were arrested Monday in protests against the elections. Demonstrations unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia have been staged against Putin’s candidacy to return him to the presidency, which he left to become Prime Minister in 2008.
According to Reuters, Gorbachev is despised by many in Russia for ushering in reforms seen as weakening the Soviet Union and bringing about its collapse.
Appearing on a Moscow radio program, Gorbachev said conduct of the elections had obviously been flawed.
"It is clear there was something up with these elections," he was quoted as saying. He also reportedly expressed dismay that Putin had cast some of his critics as enemies of Russia.
"I was surprised when he said it the first time - when citizens became enemies," said Gorbachev. "It was so insulting, so lacking in respect that he should apologize."
"The time has come to listen," he said, advising the government to listen to protesters’ concerns.
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According to The Wall Street Journal, Putin today appeared unmoved by the protests, saying they were in fact unrelated to the conduct of the elections.
“Of course there were irregularities," the Journal said the Interfax news agency had quoted Putin as saying to an audience of lawyers in Moscow. "They must all be weeded out and explained so that everybody understands everything."
The Journal said he dismissed the protests as "an element of the political struggle ... that is not related to the elections."