“Putin’s work schedule will not allow him to participate in Gorbachev’s farewell ceremony on September 3,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding that the Russian president visited the Central Clinical Hospital today to pay his respects to Gorbachev, laying flowers next to the coffin.
Gorbachev’s farewell ceremony, which will be open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, followed by a funeral later in the day at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
It is unclear whether Gorbachev, who is credited with helping to end the Cold War, will be honored with a state funeral. In stark contrast to the Kremlin’s actions following the death of former President Boris Yeltsin in 2007, the Russian government did not announce any plans for a state funeral when it issued a statement regarding Gorbachev’s death on Wednesday.
“There will be elements of a state funeral,” Peskov said Thursday. “There will be an honor guard, and a farewell ceremony will be organized. The state will help organize,” he added, without providing explanations or details about how this differs from regular official funerals.
Russian media, RIA Novosti, said earlier this week, citing the Gorbachev Foundation, that Gorbachev will be buried next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999. The historic cemetery is the burial place of many prominent Russians including writers Mikhail Bulgakov, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitriy Shostakovich and former leaders Yeltsin and Nikita Khrushchev.
While Gorbachev himself has not commented on Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, his foundation has called for peace negotiations, saying “there is nothing more precious in the world than human lives.”
Only a handful of modern Russian leaders have not been given state funerals. The last person to be deprived of honor was Khrushchev, who was ousted in 1964 after his attempts to roll back Stalinist reforms and died after living in isolation in 1971. His funeral was held in semi-secret because the Soviet authorities were concerned about the protests.
Putin’s reaction to Gorbachev’s death could not be very different from what happened after the death of Yeltsin, the man he chose as his successor when he was an unknown former KGB agent.
When Yeltsin died in 2007, Putin almost immediately created a special committee tasked with organizing a state funeral, declaring a day of national mourning and ordering half the flags on board.
It advised all Russian television and radio channels to cancel entertainment programs and ordered the funeral to be broadcast live. Dozens of prominent foreign dignitaries and former world leaders attended, including former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, former British and Canadian Prime Minister John Major and Jean Chretien and former German President Horst Koehler.
Meanwhile, Gorbachev is unlikely to receive many important foreign guests at his funeral.
In response to Western sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia due to the war on Ukraine, Moscow has banned hundreds of foreign officials from entering Russia.
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