Moscow pays respects to Gorbachev – without Putin or state honors

3 September, 06:03 PM
Farewell ceremony for Gorbachev in Column Hall in Moscow (Photo:REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)

Farewell ceremony for Gorbachev in Column Hall in Moscow (Photo:REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)

Russia bid a final farewell on Sept. 3 to the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who died on Aug. 30 at age 91.

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin decided to ignore the ceremony and, according to multiple sources, denied Gorbachev state honors.

The public farewell to Gorbachev took place in the Pillar Hall of the House of Unions in the Russian capital. Exiled Russian media outlet Meduza reports that the ceremony drew thousands.

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The police let groups of several dozen people at a time pass the open coffin. In footage recorded by news agency Reuters, a long line of people could be observed near the fences installed next to the building.

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
Фото: REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

Gorbachev will be buried at the Novodevichye cemetery next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999.

World news agencies have pointed out that the Russian authorities did notorganize a state funeral ceremony for Gorbachev – honors with strict rules of protocol, which are held following the deaths of people who had a special impact on the life of the country.

Putin has repeatedly called the collapse of the Soviet Union, which occurred under Gorbachev’s leadership, "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” and did not attend today's farewell ceremony.

Sputnik/Ekaterina Shtukina/Pool via REUTERS
Фото: Sputnik/Ekaterina Shtukina/Pool via REUTERS

The Kremlin announced this in advance, referring to the "tight schedule" of the Russian leader. Instead, Putin paid his respects to Gorbachev alone, in the morgue of the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, on Sept. 1.

At the same time, the farewell to Gorbachev was attended by Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and former president Dmitry Medvedev.

"Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War, will be buried later without ... (being) granted a full state funeral, unlike his nemesis Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first post-Soviet president and the man who named Putin as his successor," Reuters noted.

According to the agency’s reports, the only sign of state honors today is the guard of honor near Gorbachev's coffin.

French news agency AFP also stresses that Gorbachev is being buried "without the fanfare" of a state funeral and in "the glaring absence of Vladimir Putin." The agency notes that Putin's no-show at the funeral "is a sign of Gorbachev's controversial legacy in Russia, where the reaction to his death was in stark contrast to that in the West."

Earlier, Germany announced that flags in Berlin would be flown at half-mast in memory of Gorby, the name by which he was affectionately known in the West. In Germany he was liked for playing a significant role in bringing down the Berlin Wall in 1989 and permitting the subsequent peaceful reunification of Germany.

Reuters also emphasizes that due to the de facto breakdown of relations with Russia amid its war against Ukraine, many Western leaders who would otherwise have certainly attended the ceremony are absent in Moscow today.

"Instead, ordinary Russians will walk past the open casket of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate," the agency writes, noting that the scale of the ceremony is unlike "the state day of mourning and the state memorial service in the main cathedral of Moscow, which were given in 2007 to the former president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin."

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