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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cheers Greet Gorbachev on U.S. Book Tour

NEW YORK -- Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was greeted warmly with cheers and applause during a whirlwind tour of New York to promote his book "Memoirs."


Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, appeared on the "Good Morning America" and "Charlie Rose" television shows, signed books at Barnes & Noble bookstore and was interviewed Thursday at the 92nd Street Y, a Manhattan cultural center.


In his autobiography, said to be an effort to refurbish his image, the former leader attacks Russian President Boris Yeltsin. It was Yeltsin who led resistance to the August 1991 Soviet coup that aimed to topple Gorbachev, then engineered Gorbachev's humiliating resignation four months later.


With Yeltsin plagued by health problems, Gorbachev was asked at the 92nd Street Y appearance who would win the Russian presidency if an election were held today. He responded by naming ousted security chief Alexander Lebed, but added, "what he would do with the power if he won would be the question."


Gorbachev said Lebed needs a team that would help show Russians his potential. If he doesn't have that, Gorbachev said he's not sure Lebed would "measure up."


"Under certain conditions, I would vote for Lebed, if he was surrounded by a good team," Gorbachev said.


Gorbachev said he regretted turning down Yeltsin's resignation in 1987.


"I said he should not [resign] and offered him another job as defense minister," he said. "I probably should have granted him his wish. Perhaps I should have sent him to a citrus republic or a banana republic."


Of Yeltsin, Gorbachev said he should act "courageously and say, 'My health is bad.' We should not leave the country without leadership." Gorbachev was referring to Yeltsin's planned multiple bypass surgery next month.


As Soviet leader, Gorbachev turned his country toward unprecedented economic reforms. The volatility of the resulting changes has greatly diminished Gorbachev's popularity at home; he received less than 1 percent of the vote in the presidential elections earlier this year, with more people voting for "none of the above" than for Gorbachev.


He said he regards former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, with whom he concluded historic arms control treaties, as a president who is "outstanding regardless of his shortcomings."