September 26, 2022

Russia to Bury West’s Beloved Gorbachev with Shoulders

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  • The funeral was not planned with state honors or Putin’s presence
  • Gorbachev’s reforms hastened the end of the Soviet Union
  • Former leader appalled by Russian actions in Ukraine
  • This content was produced in Russia, where legislation restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, widely admired in the West and who lived long enough to undo almost all of his reforms, is to be buried with state honors or presence on Saturday. President Vladimir Putin.

Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, was given a public send-off — Muscovites can view his coffin in the padded Hall of Columns, where, in view of the Kremlin, previous Soviet leaders were mourned.

Pallbearers carried Gorbachev’s wooden coffin, draped in the Russian tricolor flag, into the venue ahead of his funeral, scheduled to begin at 0700 GMT.

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But Putin, a longtime KGB intelligence officer who called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geopolitical catastrophe,” was surprised to say that Gorbachev refused full state honors and that his schedule did not allow him to attend the funeral.

Gorbachev became a hero in the West for allowing Eastern Europe to shake off more than four decades of Soviet communist control, allowing the reunification of East and West Germany and creating arms control agreements with the United States.

But when 15 Soviet republics seized the same independence to claim their independence, Gorbachev was powerless to prevent the union’s collapse in 1991, six years after becoming its leader.

For that, the economic chaos unleashed by his “perestroika” liberalization program left many Russians unable to forgive him.

Gorbachev ‘crushed’ by events in Ukraine

Many Western heads of state and government who might have attended will be absent Saturday because of the rift in relations between Moscow and the West opened by Putin’s move to send troops into Ukraine in February.

Instead, ordinary Russians will file past the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s open coffin, which the Kremlin says will give the honor the “element” of a state event.

It would all be a far cry from the national day of mourning and state funeral in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2007 for former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who played a key role in sidelining Gorbachev as the Soviet Union disintegrated and later elected Putin. as his own successor. read more

After the ceremony, Gorbachev will be buried alongside Yeltsin at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery alongside his beloved wife, Raisa, who died 23 years earlier.

Entering the Kremlin in 2000, Putin wasted little time in rolling back the political diversity that had grown out of Gorbachev’s policy of “glasnost,” or openness, and began slowly rebuilding Moscow’s influence over many of its lost republics.

Gorbachev’s longtime translator and aide said this week that Russia’s actions in Ukraine left the former leader “shocked and dismayed” in the final months of his life. read more

“It’s not just the action that started on February 24, but the whole evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past years was really a big blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” said Pavel Palashchenko. Reuters said in an interview.

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Reported by Reuters; Written by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.