Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t be attending the funeral of Mikhail Gorbachev this weekend. It’s the latest snub against the deceased leader who presided over the end of the Soviet Union.
In a Thursday call with the Associated Press and other media outlets, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin wouldn’t attend Gorbachev’s funeral service on Saturday, blaming a scheduling conflict.
The alleged scheduling conflict comes as Putin has already denied Gorbachev the same state honors that he had granted to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin after Yeltsin’s death in 2007, Reuters reported.
After Yeltsin’s death, Putin ordered a national day of mourning. He also attended a massive state funeral at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, along with other world leaders. Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were in attendance, as was British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Putin’s administration has claimed Gorbachev’s death would have elements of a state funeral, but Putin did not order the same day of mourning for Gorbachev that he had for Yeltsin in his condolences. Putin also offered his message of condolences more than 15 hours after Gorbachev died, according to Reuters.
The Kremlin has taken an ambivalent stance toward Gorbachev’s legacy. In a Thursday press engagement, Peskov said Gorbachev “was a statesman who will forever remain a part of the history of our country but said his “romanticism” towards the west “was not justified.
While announcing Putin wouldn’t be at the funeral on Saturday, Peskov told reporters that Putin had already paid his respects to Gorbachev by visiting his casket in a viewing room.
“Unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow him to do this on Sept. 3, so he decided to do it today,” Peskov said.
A video released on Thursday showed Putin entering a viewing room by himself and placing flowers by Gorbachev’s casket. Putin laid down the flowers, touched the coffin a couple of times, and looked over in silence before gesturing the sign of the cross, bowing and walking away.
Gorbachev’s decision to allow the reunification of East and West Germany into one country, is credited with triggering other parts of the Soviet Union to break away, eventually leading to the Soviet Union’s dissolution.
In 2000, Putin called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”