Thousands attended the memorial service for Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and only president of the Soviet Union, who died aged 91 on August 30.
The funeral ceremony began in the Hall of Columns of the House of Unions near the Kremlin.
Gorbachev’s remains will be laid to rest next to his wife Raisa’s grave, as was his last will.
President Vladimir Putin will not participate in the ceremony.
The period of Gorbachev’s leadership was marked by important geopolitical processes – the end of the Cold War, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The relatively more modest funeral ceremony in Moscow reflects the Kremlin’s complicated relationship with the legacy of Gorbachev, who is revered in the West for ending the Cold War but despised by many at home for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent economic collapse that forced millions into poverty.
On Thursday, Putin said goodbye to Gorbachev separatelylaying flowers on his coffin, which the Kremlin said was due to the Russian president’s busy schedule, which would prevent him from attending the funeral today.
Asked to comment on what exactly would prevent Putin from attending, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that the head of state would have a series of working meetings, an international phone call and should prepare for his participation in the business forum in Russia’s Far east next week.
The Kremlin refrained from calling the ceremony a state funeral.
According to Peskov, it will have “elements” of such, such as an honorary guard system, and the state will help organize it. He did not specify how it would differ from a full state funeral.
If the Kremlin had announced a state funeral for Gorbachev, it would have made it harder for Putin to ignore the event. It would also require the Kremlin to send invitations to foreign leaders, something the Russian presidency has clearly been unwilling to do amid rising tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine.
Putin, who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” has avoided criticizing Gorbachev personally but has repeatedly accused him of failing to secure written commitments to the West that NATO would not expand eastward.
The Kremlin’s ambivalence was also reflected in reports on state television, in which Gorbachev was honored as a historical figure, but his reforms were described as poorly planned, and it was pointed out that he had not adequately protected the country’s interests.
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