Mikhail Gorbachev: Funeral held for last Soviet leader

·2-min read
Mikhail Gorbachev: Funeral held for last Soviet leader

Mourners have gathered in Moscow for the funeral of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union.

Mr Gorbachev, who was credited with helping to bring an end to the Cold War and opening up the former USSR, died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

On Saturday, his coffin was taken to the Hall of Pillars in Moscow’s House of the Unions for the public to pay their respects.

Later on Saturday, his body will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife, Raisa, who died of leukaemia in 1991.

Vladimir Putin will not attend the event but did send his “deepest condolences” earlier in the week.

People line up to pay the last respects at the coffin of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)
People line up to pay the last respects at the coffin of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)

“He deeply understood that reforms were necessary, he strove to offer his own solutions to urgent problems,” the Russian leader added.

It is also understood that the Russian leader privately laid flowers on Mr Gorbachev’s coffin on Thursday.

At the farewell event, hundreds of mourners passed by Mr Gorbachev's open casket flanked by honorary guards, laying flowers as solemn music played.

His daughterm Irina and his two granddaughters sat beside the coffin.

Despite the choice of the prestigious venue, the Kremlin stopped short of calling it a state funeral, with Mr Peskov saying the ceremony will have “elements” of one, such as honorary guards, and the government’s assistance in organising it. He would not describe how it will differ from a fully-fledged state funeral.

 (AP)
(AP)

After years of strained relations, Mr Gorbachev helped build ties with the western world.

Margaret Thatcher quickly emerged as his most passionate Western supporter and champion of his efforts for reform. He was a man she admired, an accolade rarely bestowed by the then prime minister.

It was when he visited Britain in 1984, four months before he assumed power, that she said: “I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business together.” His new style, she said, had “brought hope to the whole world”.

Mr Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War and spent his later years collecting accolades and awards from all corners of the world.

US President Joe Biden called Mr Gorbachev a “man of remarkable vision” and a “rare leader” who had “the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it.

“The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people,” Mr Biden said in a statement.