Russians line up to bid farewell to former Soviet leader Gorbachev

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  • No state honor or Putin’s attendance planned for the funeral
  • Gorbachev’s reforms precipitated the end of the Soviet Union
  • Ex-leader surprised by Russia’s actions in Ukraine
  • This content was produced in Russia where coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine is restricted by law.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Muscovites queued near the Kremlin on Saturday to pay their respects to Mikhail Gorbachev, the ex-Soviet leader who was so admired in the West for his reforms and who lived long enough to see Russia’s leadership retreat further. from this change.

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, is scheduled to be buried without state honors or the presence of President Vladimir Putin.

However, he was given a public farewell, as the authorities allowed the Russians to view his coffin in the imposing Hall of Columns, within sight of the Kremlin, where the former Soviet leaders were mourned.

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The pallbearers lifted Gorbachev’s wooden coffin, covered with a Russian tricolor, and placed it in the center of the hall, where a soft recording of the melancholy music from “Schindler’s List” was played in the background.

It was no surprise that Putin, a longtime KGB intelligence officer who called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geopolitical disaster,” refused to honor Gorbachev in full and said his schedule did not allow him to attend the funeral.

However, Putin expressed his respect for Gorbachev alone on Thursday and the Kremlin said the guard of honor would provide an “element” of a solemn occasion at the funeral of Gorbachev, who won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War.

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Gorbachev became a hero to many in the West because he allowed Eastern Europe to rid itself of more than four decades of Soviet communist control, allow East and West Germany to unite, and conclude arms control treaties with the United States.

But when the 15 Soviet republics seized the same liberties to claim their independence, Gorbachev was powerless to prevent the collapse of the union in 1991, six years after taking charge.

For this, and the economic chaos unleashed by his “perestroika” liberation program, many Russians could not forgive him.

The presence of the dormitory of Hungary

Many Western heads of state and government who usually attend on Saturday will be absent, due to the chasm in relations between Moscow and the West that opened up over Putin’s move to send troops to Ukraine in February.

Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs wrote on Twitter that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a conservative nationalist and one of the few European leaders with good relations with Putin, will attend the funeral.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency that Putin had no plans to meet Orban during his visit to Moscow.

Several Russian officials and cultural figures, including senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev and singer Alla Pugacheva, also paid their respects to Gorbachev’s family, who were seated to the left of his open coffin.

Gorbachev’s funeral stands in sharp contrast to the national day of mourning and the state funeral in Moscow’s main cathedral awarded in 2007 to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who was instrumental in marginalizing Gorbachev with the collapse of the Soviet Union and who later chose Putin. his successor. Read more

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After the ceremony, Gorbachev, like Yeltsin, will be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, along with his beloved wife Raisa, who died 23 years ago.

Entering the Kremlin in 2000, Putin wasted little time in rolling back the political pluralism that developed from Gorbachev’s “glasnost” or openness, and slowly began to rebuild Moscow’s influence over many of its lost republics.

A translator and long-time Gorbachev aide said this week that Russia’s actions in Ukraine left the former leader “shocked and confused” in the last months of his life. Read more

“Not only the process that began on February 24, but the whole development of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past years was really, really, a big blow to him. It really crushed him, emotionally and psychologically,” Pavel Palachenko told Reuters in an interview.

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Reporting by Reuters. Writing by Kevin Levy and Gabriel Tetro-Farber; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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