Mikhail Gorbachev's funeral
Vladimir Putin Lays Flowers At Mikhail Gorbachev's Coffin Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin did not attend former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral on Saturday with officials saying the president was too busy to attend the rites. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin could not make it to the funeral due to his work schedule however, he did pay his last respects to the late Soviet president on Thursday. Putin was seen at the Central Clinical Hospital where Gorbachev’s remains lay in state. He bowed and made the sign of the cross as he approached Gorbachev’s open coffin while laying a bouquet of roses.

According to the AP News, Peskov told the media that Putin was scheduled to conduct a series of work meetings that day, along with receiving an international phone call. He also said the president needed to prepare for a business forum in Russia’s Far East that he would be attending next week. Meanwhile, rumors about Putin’s absence during Gorbachev’s funeral mostly rolled around his speculated hesitance of showing his real health conditions through the magnified lenses of the media during the ceremony, especially in the presence of other Western officials.

As Russians arrived to pay their respects on Saturday and laid roses and bouquets of flowers to bid farewell, the public funeral drew in a large enough crowd that it had to be extended for two more hours from its allotted 2-hour public viewing. Although it was held at a prestigious site, Gorbachev’s farewell ceremony was nothing close to a state funeral. Peskov previously did say the ceremony will have “elements” of it such as honor guards and the government’s assistance in organizing the ceremony.

The only foreign leader in attendance was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Foreign Western ambassadors notably from the U.S., Britain, and Germany also attended the farewell rites. However, Gorbachev's funeral still lacked the typical roster of famous guests as Moscow banned a good number of foreign dignitaries from entering Russia as a means of retaliating against Western sanctions.

In comparison, Gorbachev’s funeral was a stark contrast to Boris Yeltsin’s death in 2007, where his ceremonial farewell was attended by a roster of world leaders, including Putin and former U.S. Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. Even the British Royal Family was represented by Prince Andrew. A national day of mourning was also declared following Yeltsin’s death. Nikita Khrushchev was the last Russian leader who was not granted a state funeral after being deposed for his attempts to bring back Stalinist reforms to the country. His funeral was held in near secrecy on September 1971.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds an open lesson "Talking about important things", attended by the winners of Olympiads and competitions in the field of culture, art, science and sports among school students at the museum and theater-educational complex in Kaliningrad on September 1, 2022. Photo by Alexey Maishev/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

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