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Putin absent from Mikhail Gorbachev's funeral, Thousands gather at open casket

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Putin absent from Mikhail Gorbachevs funeral, Thousands gather at open casket
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Moscow: Thousands of Russians gathered for the open casket of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. However, President Vladimir Putin was absent.

Known as a peacemaker who dismantled totalitarianism in the USSR, many wanted to honour the 91-year-old leader's memory. In line with tradition, his body was laid in the grand Hall of Columns in central Moscow, reported Reuters.

Gorbachev is best known for helping to end the Cold War, reducing Moscow's nuclear stockpile, and presiding over the end of the Soviet Union. The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner will be buried at Novodevichy cemetery alongside his wife Raisa. He was not granted a full state funeral.

Alexander Lebedev, who once funded an opposition-leaning newspaper with Gorbachev, said the leader wanted to give the country democracy and freedom. "We turned out to not be very ready yet. That's most unfortunate but we will still be a European country. This part of history will be over one day," he added.

Putin briefly paid his respects to Gorbachev on Thursday at the hospital but did not attend Saturday's memorial event. Veteran journalist Vladimir Pozner told Reuters that Putin's absence is kind of a statement.

The Russian President's predecessor Boris Yeltsin was Gorbachev's nemesis. Some recalled that Putin has rolled back many reforms Gorbachev introduced. Putin has also called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

Historian Andrey Zubov told Reuters that young people attending the funeral is a silent protest against the current political system. A former history student stated that Gorbachev's socio-economic mistakes pale in comparison to his actions for freedom of the press and international relations.

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TAGS:RussiaMoscowPutinMikhail Gorbachev
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