President Putin has spent much of his decades-long rule reversing parts of Gorbachev's legacy

Putin won’t attend Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral: Kremlin

President Putin has spent most of his years in office reversing parts of Gorbachev’s legacy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, due to scheduling problems, his spokesman said Thursday.

“The farewell ceremony and funeral will take place on September 3, but, unfortunately, the president’s work schedule does not allow him (to attend),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov said Putin paid his last respects to Gorbachev in the hospital, where he died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

Russian state television showed Putin placing a bouquet of red roses near Gorbachev’s open coffin in a large empty hall before falling silent for a moment.

Putin bowed his head, briefly placed his hand on the coffin and crossed himself.

The farewell ceremony for Gorbachev will take place on Saturday in the Moscow Column Hall of the House of the Unions, historically used for the funeral of dignitaries, including Joseph Stalin, in 1953.

On the same day, Gorbachev will be buried at the prestigious Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999.

Peskov said there would be “elements of a state funeral” for Gorbachev, including a guard of honor, and that the ceremony would be organized with state assistance.

Gorbachev changed the course of history by instigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and was one of the great figures of the 20th century.

His reforms as a Soviet leader transformed his country and enabled Eastern Europe to free itself from Soviet rule.

While the changes he initiated earned him admiration in the West, they drew the contempt of many Russians as the country plunged into economic chaos and its international influence waned.

Putin, who has called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, has spent most of his more than 20-year rule reversing parts of Gorbachev’s legacy.

By cracking down on independent media and political opposition, critics say, Putin undermined Gorbachev’s efforts to bring “glasnost” or openness to the Soviet system.

And by launching a military campaign in Ukraine earlier this year, he sought to restore Russian influence in one of the countries that gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev’s death sparked a flurry of praise in the West, but reaction in Russia was muted, with many blaming him for the country’s loss of global superpower status.

In a letter of condolence released by the Kremlin, Putin said that Gorbachev “was a politician and statesman who had an enormous impact on the course of world history.”

“He led our country during a period of complex, fundamental changes, large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges,” Putin added.

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