Russia should bury Gorbachev, darling of the West, lightly

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  • There are no plans for state honors or Putin’s attendance at the funeral
  • Gorbachev’s reforms precipitated the end of the Soviet Union
  • The former leader is surprised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Reuters) – Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who was beloved by the West and who lived long enough to see all the reforms he championed at home, will be buried without official honors or the presence of the current Kremlin chief.

Gorbachev became a hero in the West for allowing Eastern Europe to rid itself of more than four decades of Soviet communist control, allowing East and West Germany to unite, and concluding 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.

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

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, was given a public farewell – Muscovites will be able to see his coffin in the imposing Hall of Columns, within sight of the Kremlin, where former Soviet leaders were mourned.

But it was no surprise that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a longtime KGB intelligence officer who called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geopolitical disaster,” declined to honor Gorbachev in full and said he was too busy to attend the funeral.

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Gorbachev “crushed” the events in Ukraine

Many Western heads of state and government who would have come will surely be absent as well, due to the chasm in East-West relations that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine opened in February.

Instead, from 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) an unknown number of ordinary Russians will file the open coffin of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose honor guard will provide an “element” for an official occasion, according to the Kremlin.

It would all be a far cry from the national day of mourning and the state funeral in Moscow’s main cathedral that was awarded in 2007 to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who was instrumental in marginalizing Gorbachev with the collapse of the Soviet Union and later handpicked by Putin. his successor.

After the ceremony, Gorbachev, like Yeltsin, will be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, along with his beloved wife Raisa, whom he agonizingly 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.

The invasion of Ukraine in February was arguably the last nail in the coffin of Gorbachev’s legacy, which his translator and longtime aide said left him “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. Written by Kevin Levy. Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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