Gorbachev was the last general secretary of the Communist Party and is widely detested at home where he is viewed as responsible for a period of political upheaval and economic collapse after the Soviet Union broke down in 1991.

Unlike Russia, the West credits Gorbachev with a major role in ending the Cold War and he is a frequent speaker at international events.

Political future

In a speech, Gorbachev praised Putin for not changing the country's constitution to allow himself to run for a third consecutive term, when his period in office runs out next year.

"The president was under pressure and the fact that he did not give in to it is important from the point of view of democracy."

Putin, unlike Gorbachev, remains very popular in Russia as he is seen to be the instigator of the country's economic revival and with boosting Russia's role in world affairs.

Russians are to elect a new president in March 2008. It is still unclear what role Putin could play in Russia's political future and who his preferred successor might be.

Gorbachev's new movement is not a political party and will therefore not take part in parliamentary elections in December.