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Europe

Former Soviet Leader Gorbachev Floats New Political Party

According to reports in the Russian media, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is planning to launch a new political party, together with billionaire and erstwhile KGB official Aleksander Lebedev.

Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev

Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev plans a political comeback at age 77

The new political grouping will reportedly be called the Independent Democratic Party (IDP). It has said it will focus on developing independent state and social institutions, in particular a national television station that would not be under government control.

New political movements in Russia are generally regarded as further splitting the country's weak opposition.

Kremlin critic Boris Nemzov, leader of a center-right party that failed to make into parliament in the last elections, said that the planned new party would be a "great disadvantage" for the development of democracy in Russia.

Alexei Malashenko of the Moscow-based Carnegie Center commented, "none of Gorbachev's party political projects has been successful up to now." He added that the present political landscape in Russia left little room for such an initiative.

Longtime partners

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev

Former KGB man Lebedev is a fellow Kremlin critic

Lebedev and Gorbachev already jointly operate one of Russia's few Kremlin-critical publications, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. Among the journalists working for it was award-winning Chechen war reporter Anna Politkkovskaya, until her murder in October 2006.

Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, is generally held in high regard abroad but has been severely criticized at home for allowing the break-up of the Soviet Union and is held by many to be responsible for Russia's disastrous economic and political course during the 1990s.

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