After his death at 91, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is being laid to Rest in Russia in a low-key ceremony.
The Kremlin refused to announce a state funeral, a sign of its indifference about the legacy of a man who reforms precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin snubbed it.
Although Mr Gorbachev was admired for his efforts to bring down the Iron Curtain, many people in the country hated him for the Soviet collapse that led to the economic meltdown and plunged millions of people into poverty.
Although foreign leaders aren’t thought to have been invited, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime Minister, was there for the service.
The former Soviet leader was also honored by diplomats from other countries and the British and US ambassadors.
Privately, President Putin laid flowers at Gorbachev’s coffin in Moscow’s hospital on Thursday. He died from a long battle with cancer.
According to the Kremlin, the president would be too busy to attend the funeral.
After a farewell ceremony at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions (a mansion located near the Kremlin, which has been used as the venue for state funerals ever since Soviet times), Mr Gorbachev will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery next to his wife Raisa.
The farewell event saw hundreds of mourners pass by Mr Gorbachev’s open casket, flanked with honorary guards. They laid flowers and listened to solemn music.
He sat with his daughter Irina, and his two grandchildren.
The Kremlin did not choose the most prestigious location, but it refused to call it a state funeral. A Kremlin spokesperson said it would have “elements of one”, such as honorary guards and government assistance in organizing it.
A state funeral for Gorbachev would have made it obligatory for President Putin to attend. It would also have required Moscow to invite foreign leaders. This was something that Putin seemed reluctant to do given the escalating tensions after sending troops to Ukraine.
His translator stated that Mr Gorbachev was “shocked” by Russia’s war against Ukraine in the months preceding his death.
This conflict, which has been ongoing for over six months, has resulted in tens or thousands of deaths and a huge economic impact.
There are still concerns about security at Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power plant. Their physical integrity has been “violated”.
The focus has been on the southern part of Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are conducting operations in the vicinity of Kherson, the occupied city. This is amid fears of a long-awaited counteroffensive.