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The death of Mikhail Gorbachev could be a point of even more tension between Russia and the West, as it emerged today that the former Soviet leader may not be given a state funeral.
Gorbachev died yesterday at the age of 91 in the midst of the war in Ukraine, which resulted in a complete collapse of relations between Vladimir Putin and Western leaders who have introduced strict sanctions to hinder the Kremlin’s war effort.
When Russia’s first president – Boris Yeltsin – died in 2007, former US presidents George Bush senior and Bill Clinton both flew to Moscow along with former British Prime Minister Sir John Major.
And when Gorbachev’s predecessor in the Kremlin, Konstantin Chernenko, died in 1985, a group of serving Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl attended his funeral ceremony.
But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced today that the Kremlin was still deciding the size of Gorbachev’s funeral, who was despised by many pro-Putin hardliners for his role in bringing about the end of the Soviet Union. -Union.
And the dire state of political relations coupled with the broad sanctions imposed on Russia by Western governments means Putin is unlikely to allow political leaders from Europe and the US to attend a ceremony.
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 2004. Pro-Putin commentators have expressed contempt for Gorbachev, whom they see as a ‘traitor’ for his role in the collapse of the Soviet Union
Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan pictured at a meeting in 1990. The pair negotiated an end to the Cold War and made agreements to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons
Gorbachev maintained a close friendship with Reagan after he was ousted from power in Russia and was loved by many of his Western counterparts, including Thatcher (right)
The last publicly shared photo of the late Mikhail Gorbachev was released by Russian economist Ruslan Grinberg on July 1, 2022.
Gorbachev addresses a group of 150 businessmen in San Francisco, June 5, 1990
In the West, Gorbachev is seen as a peaceful political giant whose passing should be honored.
He introduced policies that allowed for greater freedom of expression and economic reform in Russia, liberated several Eastern European and Baltic countries from decades of Russian rule, and negotiated an end to the Cold War with US President Reagan—this all despite being less than seven years old.
He maintained a close friendship with Reagan after he was ousted from power in Russia and was loved by many of his Western counterparts, including Thatcher.
But Putin, who has called the collapse of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, quickly set about rebuilding an authoritarian Russia, undoing many of Gorbachev’s changes as he attempted to re-expand Russian territory. – a policy that culminated in the invasion of Ukraine.
With sanctions imposed on Russia by the West, including a ban on flights to Moscow, the Russian tyrant is highly unlikely to agree to receive Western leaders who have openly criticized him and his actions for months.
Putin may also be reluctant to get close to Western leaders at a time when rumors of his declining health are rife and his public appearances are rare and often painstakingly choreographed.
Gorbachev’s funeral is expected to take place at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, where the former Soviet leader will be buried next to his wife Raisa Gorbacheva.
His Gorbachev Foundation said today that no date had been set.
International leaders were almost unanimous in their praise for Gorbachev as tributes poured in to the sole Soviet president after announcing his death last night.
When Russia’s first president – Boris Yeltsin – died in 2007, former US presidents George Bush senior and Bill Clinton both flew to Moscow along with former British Prime Minister Sir John Major (clockwise from bottom left: former British Prime Minister Sir John Major). John Major, former US Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Yeltsin’s widow Naina and daughter Tatyana. Others are unidentified)
US President Joe Biden said, “Michail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision… he worked with President Reagan to shrink the nuclear arsenals of our two countries… and embraced democratic reform.
“The result was a safer world and more freedom for millions of people.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Gorbachev as “a unique statesman who has changed the course of history.”
He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War. The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist and tireless advocate for peace.”
And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared: “I have always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end…At a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to Soviet society remains to open up an example to all of us.’
But top Russian officials reacted mixed, with some openly branding the former Soviet leader a traitor.
Head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin said: “It fell to Gorbachev to lead the country in a very difficult period, to face many external and internal challenges, for which no adequate response was found.”
Oleg Morozov, a member of the main Kremlin party United Russia, said Gorbachev should have “repented” for the mistakes that harm Russia’s interests.
“There is a mystical coincidence in Gorbachev’s death at a time when the special military operation in Ukraine is taking place,” Morozov said. “He was a willing or unwilling co-author of the unfair world order that our soldiers are now fighting on the battlefield.”
And Nikolai Kolomeitsev, the deputy head of the communist faction in the Duma, went even further, calling Gorbachev a “traitor” who “destroyed the state.”