MOSCOW: A group of Russian MPs have formally requested prosecutors to investigate former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for treason over the breakup of the Soviet Union, one lawmaker said Thursday.
Ivan Nikitchuk, a deputy with the Communist Party, said recent events and the Ukraine crisis in particular had led five MPs, including two from the ruling United Russia party, to ask Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to probe Gorbachev, 83.
“We asked to prosecute him and those who helped him destroy the Soviet Union for treason of national interests,” Nikitchuk told AFP, adding that Soviet citizens in 1991 were against the country’s breakup.
Seeking to create a more open and prosperous Soviet Union through glasnost and perestroika, Gorbachev ended up inadvertently unleashing forces that swept the country he had sought to preserve from the map and himself from power.
“The consequences of that destruction can be felt today in the conflicts that we have seen,” Nikitchuk said, adding that this included not only Ukraine but also in other former Soviet countries over the past two decades.
In February, a popular pro-Western uprising in Ukraine ousted pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, who has since taken refuge in Russia.
The Kremlin responded by sending troops to Ukraine’s Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea and annexing it as part of Russia last month.
“What is happening in Ukraine can happen in Russia, too,” Nikitchuk said. “This pushed us to write to the prosecutor general, so that professional lawyers rather than historians investigate the events of 1991.”
He added that lawmakers were also concerned about internal enemies stirring unrest:
“The fifth column in our country has been formed and works in the open, funded by foreign money.”
In a landmark speech marking Russia’s takeover of Crimea, President Vladimir Putin called Russians disagreeing with his policies such as his decision to occupy the Crimea Peninsula a “fifth column.”
There have been previous attempts by the Communist Party to have Gorbachev prosecuted but these have led nowhere.
Nikitchuk said he hoped that the current political climate makes for a more favorable moment and that prosecutors would launch the investigation this time.
Unlike the previous cases, the current request is backed by lawmakers from the ruling party United Russia.
Gorbachev said the lawmakers’ initiative was “poorly thought out and groundless from a historical point of view.”
“Such calls only show that some lawmakers want publicity,” he told the Interfax news agency.
A spokeswoman at the prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist in December 1991 after Russia, Belarus and Ukraine signed the Belavezha accords dissolving it.
Gorbachev resigned two weeks later.