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Human Rights

Gorbachev feels Putin is destroying his life's work on Russian freedom, ties with West

July 25, 2022 7:40am

Updated: July 26, 2022 8:44am

The Soviet leader who ended the Cold War and sought to mend ties with the West is dismayed to see his life’s work “destroyed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, says a close friend.

Journalist and prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Venidiktov said in an interview with Forbes Russia                                                                     he was still in touch with the former leader, now 91 years old and in poor health.

"What Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev did is all destroyed. All Gorbachev's reforms—to zero, to ashes, to smoke,” bemoaned the journalist.

Serving as the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, Gorbachev instituted the “glasnost” (openness) and (rebuilding) “perestroika” reforms that led to the collapse of the USSR and easing of tensions with the West.

Venidiktov said that Putin had destroyed Gorbachev’s legacy both at home and abroad. He cited how NATO had only kept 4,000 rapid reaction troops on-hand after the former leader stepped down – a testament to their optimism about the future of Russia.

In June, NATO declared it would increase its 40,000 troops on high-readiness to 300,000 by mid-2023 to counter Russian aggression.

The Russian president has also cracked down on press freedom, which Gorbachev helped foster, after the invasion began on Feb. 24. One casualty in the Kremlin’s war against dissent was the independent Ekho Moscow (Echo of Moscow) radio station, where Venidiktov was the long-time editor.

"I can tell you that Gorbachev is upset, of course, he understands. It was his life's work."

"Freedom is Gorbachev's business. Everyone has already forgotten who gave freedom to the Russian Orthodox Church. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev," added Venidiktov. "Freedom of speech, the first law on the press – Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. Private property –Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. So what is he going to say now?"

The aging Gorbachev spoke out against NATO expansionism in December, saying the U.S. had become “arrogant and self-confident” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But he has not said anything publicly since the Ukraine war began.