Medvedev and Orbán were the most prominent personalities present at the last farewell to the former Soviet leader
Thousands of people have come this Saturday to the House of Trade Unions in Moscow to pay their last farewell to the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, in a ceremony attended by Western diplomats and not attended by the president, Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has stated that the event will have some of the symbolism associated with a state funeral, but in recent days there have been few official gestures towards Gorbachev. Without national mourning, Putin limited himself on Wednesday to placing a bouquet of flowers on the coffin of the former Soviet leader. The Kremlin has cited scheduling problems for not attending this Saturday’s events.
The Gorbachev Foundation had informed that this Sunday’s event would be open to the public and thousands of people have responded to the call, with long queues in the vicinity of the House of Trade Unions to try to access the room where the remains of the former leader rested, according to ‘The Moscow Times’. The coffin of the last Soviet leader was accompanied by his daughter Irina and his two granddaughters.
On the part of the Russian political leadership, the most representative presence has been that of the vice-president of the Security Council, Dimitri Medvedev. The ambassadors of several Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, were also present, according to the Interfax agency.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the only European head of government to make an appearance, although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hastened to clarify that no meeting with Putin is on the agenda, reports TASS.
The ceremonies have continued with the burial of Gorbachev in the Moscow cemetery of Novodevichi, where the last Soviet leader will lie next to his wife, Raisa, who died of cancer in 1999. The coffin was buried to the sound of a military band playing the Russian national anthem and an artillery salvo.
One of the attendees, a young man interviewed by German ARD television, explained that he would not have known about the ceremony if he had not sought it out on his own initiative and noted that it was intended to be a modest ceremony with every intention.
“I came by accident, but it is very important because we are not only saying goodbye to this leader, but also to the hope for a free Russia. This hope has disappeared, but not with him, but probably much earlier,” another man has recounted.
Gorbachev, founder among other personalities of the independent newspaper ‘Novaya Gazeta’, had recently criticized the lack of freedoms under Putin’s rule.
Gorbachev died on August 30 in a hospital in the Russian capital and, since then, the disparity between the memory held of him by Western governments, who thank him for his role in ending the Cold War, and the coldness demonstrated in his own country has been evident.
Among Russian citizens there is still a certain uneasiness towards a figure they associate with the end of an era of splendor and the lukewarmness of the current government, concentrated on justifying at all costs its current war adventure in Ukraine, proves it.