The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be able to attend the funeral service of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader who died earlier this week, because of his work schedule.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow Thursday that while Gorbachev will not be honored with a full state funeral, the service will have an honor guard and some other elements usually given during such a ceremony.
He added that Putin stopped by the Central Clinical Hospital earlier in the day to bid farewell to the man credited with helping end the Cold War, whose body remains there after he passed away at the age of 91 on August 30 following a prolonged illness.
“Unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow him to do that [attend the service] on September 3, which is why he decided to it today,” Peskov said.
Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina Virganskaya, has said her father’s funeral will be held on September 3 at the historic House of the Unions, where all Soviet leaders, except Nikita Khrushchev, have laid in state. The site is just a short walk away from the Kremlin.
Putin’s decision not to attend the funeral highlights the frosty response the Kremlin has had to the death of a man much of the West praised for ushering in political and economic changes known as “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring) that helped trigger the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, and ultimately the demise of the Soviet Union.
Putin, who had a strained relationship with Gorbachev, has called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”
Gorbachev had carefully criticized Putin, at times, for rolling back democratic reforms and reintroducing elements of repression that seemed more at home during the Soviet era than post-perestroika Russia.
The Gorbachev Foundation said that anyone who wants to bid farewell to the man who stopped the Cold War can attend the ceremony in the House of the Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on September 3.
Gorbachev will be laid to rest at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife, Raisa Gorbacheva, who died in 1999 of leukemia at the age of 67.