MOSCOW – An outspoken adviser to President Vladimir Putin (search) warned Thursday that the government's attempts to tighten controls over political life and economy would lead Russia to ruin.
Andrei Illarionov (search), an economics adviser to Putin, warned that the Kremlin's efforts to muzzle voices of dissent and civil society would eventually trigger protests similar to those which swept Ukraine during its fiercely contested presidential vote.
"We will inevitably face similar events if the current trends continue," Illarionov said on Ekho Moskvy radio, saying that the ongoing crackdown on free speech would only deepen Russia's problems.
"The unsolved problems will exacerbate," said Illarionov, a liberal Putin adviser who has become increasingly critical of his patron. "In the absence of normal, legal ways of solving such problems, there is nothing left but revolution."
Illarionov has become a lone dissenter in the Kremlin, which is increasingly dominated by Putin's fellow veterans from the KGB (search). They are widely seen as a driving force behind the probe against the embattled Yukos oil giant, which has been all but crushed by a legal onslaught of back taxes and criminal charges against its owners.
The company's main production unit, Yugasnkneftegaz, was sold earlier this month to a shell company that was then bought by the state-owned oil company Rosneft.
Illarionov described the Yugasnkneftegaz sale as the "fraud of the year" and said that the government's course "doesn't promise us any good."
In the wake of the horrifying hostage-taking in September at a school in Beslan, Putin has pushed for a series of electoral reforms, saying that Russia needs a stronger government to avert terror attacks. He has shrugged off critic' accusations that he was leading the country back to the authoritarian Soviet past.