Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “Putin’s work schedule will not allow him to attend Gorbachev’s farewell ceremony on September 3”, adding that the Russian president today visited the Central Clinical Hospital to pay respects to Gorbachev, laying flowers near the coffin.
A farewell ceremony for Gorbachev, which will be open to the public, is due to take place on Saturday, followed by the funeral later the same day at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery.
It is unclear whether Gorbachev, who is credited with helping end the Cold War, will be honored with a state funeral. Unlike the Kremlin’s actions after the death of former President Boris Yeltsin in 2007, the Russian government announced no plans for a state funeral when it issued a statement on Gorbachev’s death on Wednesday.
“There will be elements of a state funeral,” Peskov said Thursday. “There will be a guard of honor and a farewell ceremony will be held. The state will help with the organization,” he added, without providing an explanation or details on how this would differ from the ordinary state funeral.
Gorbachev will be buried next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, Russian state media RIA Novosti said earlier this week, citing the Gorbachev Foundation. The historic cemetery is the final resting place of many notable Russians, including writers Mikhail Bulgakov, Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol, composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich, and former rulers Yeltsin and Nikita Khrushchev.
And while Gorbachev himself has not commented on Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, his foundation has called for peace talks, saying “there is nothing more valuable in the world than human lives”.
Only a handful of modern Russian leaders have not had state funerals. The last to be denied the honor was Khrushchev who was deposed in 1964 following his attempts to roll back Stalinist reforms and who died after living in seclusion in 1971. His funeral was held in the semi -secret because the Soviet authorities were worried about the demonstrations.
Putin’s reaction to the death of Gorbachev could not have been more different than after the death of Yeltsin, the man who chose him as his successor when he was a little-known former KGB agent.
When Yeltsin died in 2007, Putin almost immediately set up a special commission to organize a state funeral, declared a day of national mourning and ordered flags to be flown at half mast.
All Russian TV and radio channels have been advised to cancel entertainment broadcasts and ordered to broadcast the funeral live. Dozens of foreign dignitaries and former world leaders attended, including former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, former British and Canadian Prime Ministers John Major and Jean Chretien, and former German President Horst Koehler.
Meanwhile, Gorbachev is unlikely to receive many foreign VIP guests at his funeral.
In retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries during the war against Ukraine, Moscow banned hundreds of foreign officials from entering Russia.