Moscow: Russia needs to make urgent changes to its political system if it is to avoid instability, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned. “For Russia, honest and free elections, as well as political competition, are as necessary as fresh air,” Gorbachev, 80, said in an article published by a popular newspaper.

Gorbachev, who was the last head of state of the USSR, said that he had noted a “growing concern” among Russians over the “degradation of the state and demoralisation of society.”

But, Gorbachev said, “It is difficult to get away from the feeling that the Russian authorities have neither the political will nor the readiness to find a real way out.”

He also warned that if Russia did not make changes in the next five or six years, “then there was a great chance that the country will be unable to get out of this dead-end.”

Russia sees Parliamentary polls in December and Presidential elections in March.

Gorbachev also said that Russia was returning to a dangerous period of stagnation such as that experienced in the Leonid Brezhnev-era.