Moscow: The last Soviet leader, Mikhail
Gorbachev, called on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday to
heed protester demands and quit politics instead of seeking a
third term as Russian president.
"I would advise Vladimir Putin to leave now. He has had
three terms: two as president and one as prime minister. Three
terms -- that is enough," Gorbachev told Moscow Echo radio in
Gorbachev`s call came as the second mass protest in two
weeks against fraud-tainted legislative polls ended in Moscow
and on the eve of the 20th anniversary tomorrow of his
resignation as the Soviet Union`s last president.
The 80-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner pointed out that
he himself decided to quit after it became clear that the
Soviet system could no longer survive and urged Putin to
follow his example by bowing to popular discontent.
"He should do the same thing I did. That is what I would
do. That way, he would be able to preserve all the positive
things he did."
Former KGB agent Putin served two terms as president
between 2000 and 2008 before being appointed prime minister by
his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev.
The ruling duo has since announced plans to swap jobs
after March presidential elections that Putin had seemed
destined to easily win in the first round until his support
began dropping on news of his impending return.
His ruling United Russia party managed to cling on to a
narrow majority in disputed December 4 parliamentary elections
that had been seen as a test of people`s support for his
decision to come back as president.
Several recent opinion polls showed Putin struggling to
break the 50-per cent margin required to win the presidential
vote in the first round.
But no single figure from the opposition has yet emerged
as a serious contender to Putin despite the wave of protests
that have rolled through Russia in recent weeks.