Mr Putin – who became prime minister after serving as Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008 – is almost certain to become president again during the 4 March election, despite opposition rallies that have been the largest protests Russia has seen since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
“If he does not overcome himself, change the way things are – and I think it will be difficult for him to do that – then everything will end up on city squares,” Mr Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, told a news conference yesterday.
Mr Gorbachev said of Mr Putin: “He won’t carry that weight. By now he has exhausted himself.”
Mr Gorbachev recently urged Mr Putin to give up power and annul the results of December’s fraud-tainted parliamentary vote, which triggered the anti-Putin rallies.
Mr Gorbachev led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991. He remains admired abroad, but he is regarded as insignificant at home.
Mr Putin, meanwhile, is striving to show that he still has a vision of reforms in Russia.
In an address to a business leaders’ association yesterday, he said he would like businesses to work more closely with the government on drafting legislation and shaping policies.
However, he also urged the business community to revisit the 1990s privatisation wave in which many major factories and assets were sold at bargain prices to those who have become Russia’s richest men.
“We need to close this problem of what was, frankly, dishonest privatisation,” he said. “This should be a one-off contribution or something like that. We need to think about it together.”