Gorbachev blasts Russia's rulers as he turns 80

March 2, 2011 - 0:0

MOSCOW (AP)– Approaching his 80th birthday, Mikhail Gorbachev jokes about his age but frowns when he speaks of Russia sliding back into Soviet authoritarian ways he thought he defeated.

For much of the nearly 20 years since the Soviet Union collapsed under his leadership, Gorbachev has been something of a dim figure in his homeland, mostly staying out of public view despite being lauded in the West.
These days, Gorbachev, who turns 80 on Wednesday, is becoming more visible and outspoken, even recently doling out harsh criticism of Vladimir Putin — as painful memories over the anxiety and suffering that followed the USSR's disintegration grow fainter.
Although his legacy remains controversial, Gorbachev is at last getting some recognition as an elder statesman, including a large photo exhibition on his years in power, displayed in a prestigious hall just outside the walls of the Kremlin that he once ruled.
And despite his years, he still shows the vigor and humor that captivated the world after a long series of sickly and tongue-tied Soviet leaders.
“I don't believe I'm 80 and didn't hope I'd make it (this far) — but I'm not going into physiological details here,” he joked at a recent news conference.