The Kremlin has announced that Vladimir Putin will not be attending the funeral of Mikhail Gorbachev, the very last president of the Soviet Union, in what will be perceived as a remarkable snub by the Russian leader.
According to a Kremlin spokesperson, Gorbachev, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, would also not be accorded a state funeral, making him the first head of state since Nikita Khrushchev to not receive such a distinctive honour.
His attendance to the public farewell ceremony at Moscow’s House of Unions and the funeral at Novodevichy Cemetery today, August 3, was postponed “due to schedule conflicts”, according to his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov.
“Unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow him,” Peskov added.
On Thursday morning, State television footage showed Putin placing a bouquet of red roses beside an open casket next to a picture of Gorbachev in the memorial chapel. The Kremlin leader made the symbol of the cross while bowing several times. This was the first time the public had seen Gorbachev’s body.
Putin, according to Peskov, travelled to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost, late Thursday.
The farewell ceremony for Gorbachev is due to include “elements of a state funeral, such as a guard of honour”, according to Peskov. “The funeral ceremony will be arranged. In this case, the government will help organise the funeral.”
A nationally televised farewell ceremony was held at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour for Boris Yeltsin, the only other former Kremlin leader to pass away while Putin was in office. The day of Yeltsin’s passing was proclaimed a national day of mourning by Putin, who was prime minister at the time.
Gorbachev, who launched the policies that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, developed a difficult relationship with President Putin, who has described the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
Putin was at times criticised by Gorbachev for undoing democratic reforms and reintroducing elements of repression that occasionally evoked the Soviet era.
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