Putin denies Gorbachev a state funeral and will stay away

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September 1 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will miss the funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, denying the man who failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet empire state honors given to Boris Yeltsin.

Gorbachev, idolized in the West for allowing Eastern Europe to escape Soviet communist control but unloved at home for the chaos his ‘perestroika’ reforms have unleashed, will be buried on Saturday after a public ceremony in the Hall of Columns in Moscow.

The Great Hall, within sight of the Kremlin, hosted the funerals of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. Gorbachev will receive a military honor guard – but his funeral will not be public.

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State television showed Thursday that Putin solemnly placed red roses next to Gorbachev’s coffin – left open as is tradition in Russia – at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, where he died on Tuesday. 91 years old.

Putin made a sign of the cross in Russian Orthodox fashion before briefly touching the edge of the coffin.

“Unfortunately, the president’s work program will not allow him to do it on September 3, so he decided to do it today,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He said Gorbachev’s ceremony would have “elements” of a state funeral and that the state was helping to organize it.

Still, it will be a stark contrast to the funeral of Yeltsin, who helped sideline Gorbachev as the Soviet Union crumbled and chose Putin, a career KGB intelligence officer, as the fittest man to succeed him.

When Yeltsin died in 2007, Putin declared a day of national mourning and, alongside world leaders, attended a grand state funeral at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Russia’s intervention in Ukraine appears to be aimed at at least partially reversing the collapse of the Soviet Union that Gorbachev failed to prevent in 1991.

Gorbachev’s decision to let the countries of the post-war Soviet communist bloc go their own way, and East and West Germany to reunite, helped spark nationalist movements within the 15 Soviet republics which he was powerless to suppress.

Five years after taking power in 2000, Putin called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”.

It took Putin more than 15 hours after Gorbachev’s death to issue a sober message of condolence saying that Gorbachev had had a ‘tremendous impact on the course of world history’ and ‘deeply understood that reforms were needed’ to tackle the problems of the Soviet Union. In the 1980’s.

Gorbachev’s foundation said the funeral would begin at 12:00 p.m. (0900 GMT), not 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) as previously announced.

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Reuters reporting; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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