Vladimir Putin will not attend the funeral of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin has said, in what will be seen as an extraordinary snub by the Russian president.
Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday aged 91, would also not receive an official state funeral, a Kremlin spokesperson indicated, making him the first leader since Nikita Khrushchev not to be given that honour.
The spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said schedule constraints meant Putin would not attend a public farewell ceremony at Moscow’s House of Unions, or the funeral at Novodevichy cemetery on Saturday. “Unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow him,” Peskov said.
Putin did pay his respects to the Soviet leader on Thursday morning, leaving flowers by Gorbachev’s coffin at the mourning hall of Moscow’s Central Clinical hospital.
Footage played on state television showed the president laying a bouquet of red roses at an open coffin next to a portrait of Gorbachev. The Kremlin leader bowed several times while making the sign of the cross. It was the first time Gorbachev’s body had been shown to the public.