There have been heated exchanges live on Russian state television between candidates vying to become the country’s next president.
The common target was the favourite to win, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov and the Liberal Democrat Vladimir Zhirinovsky were scathing about Putin for not taking part in live TV debates.
Zhirinovsky said: ‘It will be difficult for him to answer. He has been in charge for 13 years, since August 1999. Maybe he is not guilty of anything by himself, (but) everything that happened during all these 13 years has a lot of negatives.’
The tycoon Mikhail Prokorov is one of five candidates challenging Putin in the election. He is trailing the prime minister in second place in Moscow and St Petersburg.
The former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev also had Putin in his sights. The 80 year old whose leadership heralded the end of communist rule throughout eastern Europe said: ‘I don’t think he needs to be vilified. He managed to do a few useful things. But now it turns out he’s exhausted his resources. That’s how things go.’
Putin was meeting the richest part of Russian society: the industrialists and entrepreneurs.
To prove he still has some ideas, he proposed suggestions to cut corruption and said he wanted business to work more closely with the government on drafting legislation and shaping policies.
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