By Ray Fleming

TOMORROW will be exactly 20 years since Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the Soviet Union, a victim of his own reform policy of “glasnost” (openness). The following day the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist after dominating international affairs for 70 years and playing the major role in the defeat of Germany in the Second World War. Gorbachev is still a familiar international figure -- yesterday the Washington Post carried a report that he might be on the platform of today's large protest demonstration in Moscow against the outcome of the probably rigged parliamentary elections held three weeks ago. That seems unlikely because in Russia Gorbachev is thought less of than in the West.

In the results of the recent parliamentary election and the demonstrations in Moscow and other cities there has been a clear sign of public dissatisfaction with Vladimir Putin who in March will ask for a vote of confidence in his ability to lead Russia as President -- until 2024, if he chooses to seek subsequent re-election. It remains to be seen whether the demonstrations and other forms of resistance to Putin will throw up a leader capable of offering an opposition persuasive enough to defeat even another round of vote-rigging.

Russia, although a better place than it was when Mr Gorbachev left it, is still in need of the reforms he wanted.


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