SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates – Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Sunday that the political crisis in Ukraine, which has seen its president driven from the capital after months of protests, stems from its government’s failure to act democratically.
He spoke a day after demonstrators took over Kiev and seized President Viktor Yanukovych’s office as parliament voted to remove him and hold new elections.
Protesters first took to the streets of Kiev late last year after Yanukovych abandoned an agreement that would have strengthen his country’s ties with the European Union in favor of seeking closer cooperation with Moscow.
“Ultimately this is the result of the failure of the government to act democratically” and to engage in dialogue and fight corruption, Gorbachev said during an address at the International Government Communication Forum in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
He added that the root cause of the unrest in Ukraine was an “interruption of perestroika,” referring to his reform policies, and “an interruption of the democratic process” there.
Gorbachev also criticized the disparities that have resulted from globalization, which he described as a “blind process” that has led to uneven development and created more losers than winners in the developing world.
The 82-year-old Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union, and the reforms he put in place helped lead to the fall of Communism.
After becoming the Soviet leader in March 1985, he pursued the policies of using “glasnost” or openness, and “perestroika” or restructuring. While his intent had been only reform, the policies brought about democratic changes that eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War, but he has little influence in today’s Russia.
Recently he has become increasingly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In December 2011, Gorbachev urged then-Prime Minister Putin to step down as tens of thousands of protesters demanded free elections and an end to Putin’s rule in the largest show of public outrage since protests 20 years ago that brought down the Soviet Union.
Moscow has backed Yanukovych. He is widely despised in western Ukraine, but has strong support in the Russian-speaking east.
Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck