UPDATE (3): Gorbachev buried in Moscow in funeral disrespected by Putin

Associated Press

Saturday, September 3, 2022 09:36
Last updated: about 6 hours ago

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War and initiated dramatic reforms that helped to dismantle the Soviet Union, was buried Saturday after a farewell ceremony attended by thousands of mourners. was ignored by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s refusal to formally declare a state funeral reflects fears over Gorbachev’s legacy. Gorbachev is universally revered for breaking the Iron Curtain, but at home he is widely criticized for impoverishing millions of people during the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent economic collapse. .

On Thursday, Putin personally laid flowers at Gorbachev’s coffin at the Moscow hospital where he died.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Saturday that the president had a series of working meetings, international phone calls, and will attend next week in Russia’s Far East. He said he needed to prepare for an upcoming business forum. .

Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, was buried next to his wife Raisa at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. He was buried next to his wife Raisa after a farewell ceremony in the Hall of the Bundestag Pillar, his opulent 18th-century mansion near the Kremlin. As a venue for state funerals since the Soviet era.

At Saturday’s ceremony, mourners passed Gorbachev’s open coffin flanked by honor guards and laid wreaths as solemn music played. Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina, and his two granddaughters were sitting by the coffin.

The hall, with its magnificent chandeliers flanked by columns, hosted balls for the nobility under the emperor and served as a venue for high-level meetings and conferences during the Soviet era, along with state funerals. As mourners entered the building, they saw a large picture of Gorbachev standing with a wide smile, flanked by honor guards. This was a reminder of the bright vitality he brought to the Soviet leadership after a series of sullen and ailing predecessors.

It was so successful that it was extended two hours beyond the scheduled two hours.

Despite choosing a well-known location for the farewell ceremony, the Kremlin did not call it a state funeral, and Peskov said the ceremony would include “elements” of state funerals, such as honor guards, and the government to organize it. said there was support for He did not explain how it differs from a full-scale state funeral.

Saturday’s ceremony had all the accoutrements appropriate for a state funeral, except for the name, including the national flag covering Gorbachev’s coffin. playing the Russian national anthem.

But officially declaring Gorbachev’s state funeral would require President Putin to attend it and Russia to invite foreign leaders.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, chaired by Putin, who was president of Russia from 2008 to 2012, attended the farewell ceremony. referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and accused the United States and its allies of trying to manipulate the collapse of Russia. “A Chess Game with Death”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often been critical of Western sanctions against Russia, attended a farewell party on Saturday. Ambassadors from the US, UK, Germany and other Western countries were also present.

The relatively modest ceremony contrasted with Boris Yeltsin’s extravagant state funeral in 2007. Boris Yeltsin has picked Putin as his successor and is ready to step down and become president.

Yeltsin was also buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, where many famous Russians are buried, including Dmitry Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Anton Chekhov. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was ousted from power in 1964, is one of those buried there.

The farewell press conference was overshadowed by the perception that the openness that Gorbachev championed was being suppressed under Putin.

Mourner Ilya, a financial services worker in her early 30s who refused to give her last name, said, “I want to thank him for having a childhood of freedom.

“I am the son of perestroika,” he said, using the Russian word for Gorbachev’s reform, or reconstruction, initiative.

Another mourner, Yulia Prividnaya, said, “I wish we had more people like him in our history.”

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party that worked on the economic reform plan under Gorbachev, praised him for “giving people a chance to say what they think”.

Putin, who once lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, avoids openly personal criticism of Gorbachev but secures written promises from the West to rule out NATO’s eastward expansion He repeatedly accuses Gorbachev of failing to do so. The issue has undermined relations between Russia and the West for decades, fueling tensions that exploded when Russian leaders sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

In a letter of condolence published Wednesday, Putin avoided explicit praise or criticism, describing Gorbachev as a man who “has had a tremendous impact on the course of world history.”

“Among major foreign policy, economic and social challenges, he led the country through difficult and dramatic changes,” Putin said. “He was deeply aware of the need for reform and sought to offer solutions to serious problems.”

The Kremlin’s sympathy for Gorbachev, reflected in state-run television broadcasts that described Gorbachev’s global admiration and the grandiose expectations generated by his reforms, plunged the country into political turmoil and economic hardships, leaving the government He held Gorbachev responsible for failing to adequately protect the country’s interests in negotiations with the West. UPDATE (3): Gorbachev buried in Moscow in funeral disrespected by Putin

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