Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and a reformist who is widely considered to be responsible for the normalization of relations between Russia and the West, died aged 91 on August 30 – and according to a former high-level Soviet interpreter, he died “bewildered” by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Pavel Palazhchenko described how the late Soviet leader was “shocked and bewildered” over the conflict in the months before he died and was left “psychologically crushed” by the worsening relations between Kyiv and Moscow over the last few years.
Palazhchenko, who worked with Gorbachev for 37 years, described a conversation with the former Russian leader just a few weeks ago over the phone.
“It’s not just the (special military) operation that started on Feb. 24, but the entire evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past years that was really, really a big blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” the former Soviet interpreter said.
“It was very obvious to us in our conversations with him that he was shocked and bewildered by what was happening (after Russian troops entered Ukraine in February) for all kinds of reasons. He believed not just in the closeness of the Russian and Ukrainian people, he believed that those two nations were intermingled.”
Palazchenko also recognized that the former Soviet leader’s views were hypocritical, given that he maintained his belief in the Soviet Union but would not have used violent means to achieve it.
Putin Won’t Attend Funeral
Probably unsurprisingly, the Kremlin confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not attend the funeral of the former Russian leader, which is due to take place on Saturday. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the president could not attend the funeral owing to a schedule conflict.
“We know that the general farewell ceremony will take place on September 3, the funeral, but, unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow it to be done on September 3, so he decided to do it today,” Peskov said, referencing Putin’s decision to visit the Central Clinical Hospital to pay his respects on Tuesday.
Putin visited the hospital where Gorbachev died On Tuesday and laid flowers at his coffin.
Peskov also revealed that while Gorbachev’s funeral would have some “elements” of a state funeral, including a guard of honor, we will not be given a full state funeral.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.