Putin responds to Mikhail Gorbachev’s death while paying tribute to other world leaders

attributed to him…Vladimir Rodionov/Itar-Tass, via The Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called Mikhail S. The last Soviet leaderwho spent his years in power trying to reverse his legacy of openness.

In a brief message of condolences to the family of Mr. Gorbachev published By the Kremlin the day after his death, the Russian leader said Mr. Gorbachev had “led our country through a period of complex and dramatic changes”, and offered “sincere words of sympathy and support”.

Putin’s first public comments about Gorbachev’s death were in sharp contrast to his policies, which sought to undo much of his predecessor’s legacy of greater personal and political freedoms. Mr. Putin has also called the end of the Soviet Union – of which Mr. Gorbachev presided – the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, and he is now waging a war in Ukraine to reclaim what he sees as lost Russian territory, a war that Mr. Gorbachev once dismissed as “ridiculous”.

Referring to the “great humanitarian, charitable and educational work” of Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa, said Mr.

The condolence note allowed Mr. Putin to emerge as a statesman above political fray, but it soon became clear that Mr. Gorbachev would not be honored by the Kremlin. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov, the format of Mr. Gorbachev’s funeral – such as whether it will receive state honors – has not yet been decided, and will depend on his family’s wishes, according to the Interfax news agency.

By contrast, on the day Mr. Gorbachev’s successor, Boris N. Yeltsin, Mr. Putin, who succeeded him in 2007, died, announce A day of national mourning for his funeral. The ceremony was broadcast live on state television and the landing of Yeltsin’s coffin was accompanied by an artillery salute.

Gorbachev’s daughter Irina told Interfax news agency that her father’s funeral will take place on Saturday, in the Great Hall of the Council of Trade Unions in Moscow.

The Great Hall, flanked by white Corinthian columns, was the site of many notable ceremonies, including the funerals of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and other Soviet leaders. His daughter said Mr. Gorbachev would be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Peskov said the Kremlin was not sure if Mr. Putin would attend the ceremony. In comments reported by Interfax, Mr. Peskov was more outspoken than Mr. Putin regarding Mr. Gorbachev, calling him an “exceptional and unique person” while also calling him a “romantic” who naively believed that post-Soviet Russia could be friends with the West.

“Gorbachev gave impetus to the end of the Cold War, and he honestly believed that it would end and there would be an eternal romantic period between the new Soviet Union and the world, the collective West as we call it,” said Peskov.

“That romance didn’t work,” Peskov added. “Our opponents’ thirst for blood showed itself and it is good that we recognized and understood it in time.”

From his early days in the Kremlin, Mr. Putin has worked hard to roll back Mr. Gorbachev’s signature policies like glasnost, which meant openness and transparency of government and free discussion of its work.

However, Mr. Putin was careful not to condemn Gorbachev’s legacy entirely, arguing that he had to preside over an irreparable Soviet regime. For his part, Mr. Gorbachev has never criticized Mr. Putin to the extent that he has questioned his legitimacy as ruler of Russia.

In ill health in the last months of his life, Mr. Gorbachev said nothing publicly about Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine. Mr. Gorbachev, the son of a Ukrainian mother and a Russian father, shared Mr. Putin’s view that Ukraine should be in Russia’s orbit, Once he tells a journalist: “It may not be a scientific fact, but we are the same people.” he is They supported Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, but told a Siberian media outlet that the worst could be avoided.

“A war between Russia and Ukraine – that’s ridiculous,” he said.

Two days after Mr. Putin’s invasion in February, his Gorbachev Foundation, a research institute that “seeks to advance democratic values,” issued a statement calling for a “quick cessation of hostilities” and an “immediate start of peace talks.”

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