MOSCOW (AP) — Russian officials and lawmakers treaded carefully Wednesday while reacting to Mikhail Gorbachev's death , praising him for his role in ending the Cold War but deploring his failure to avert the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The stance was reflected by state television broadcasts, which paid tributes to Gorbachev as a historic figure but described his reforms as poorly planned and held him responsible for failing to safeguard the country's interests in dialogue with the West.
The criticism echoed earlier assessments by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has famously lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”
In a telegram of condolences released by the Kremlin, Putin praised Gorbachev as a man who left “ an enormous impact on the course of world history .”
“He led the country during difficult and dramatic changes, amid large-scale foreign policy, economic and society challenges,” Putin said. “He deeply realized that reforms were necessary and tried to offer his solutions for the acute problems.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Gorbachev as an “extraordinary” statesman who will “always remain in the country's history.”
“Gorbachev has given an impulse to ending the Cold War and he sincerely wanted to believe that it will be over and a new romantic period will start between the renewed Soviet Union and the collective West,” Peskov said. “Those romantic expectations failed to materialize. The bloodthirsty nature of our opponents has come to light, and it's good that we realized that in time.”
While avoiding explicit personal criticism of Gorbachev, Putin in the past repeatedly blamed him for failing to secure written commitments from the West that would rule out NATO's expansion eastward — an issue that has become a major irritant in Russia-West ties for decades and fomented tensions that exploded when the Russian leader sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Members of the Kremlin-controlled parliament sought followed a similar path, hailing Gorbachev's historic role but lamenting the Soviet collapse.
Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house, the State Duma, hailed Gorbachev as “the most remarkable politician of his time,” but described him as a “contradictory” figure whose reforms “played into the hands of those who were trying to wipe the USSR off the world's map.”
Sergei Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia party, told the official Tass news agency that Gorbachev “was like a breath of fresh air, embodying the hopes for colossal changes,” but added that his policies led to “the loss of a great country” and became a “tragedy for generations of Russians.”
Some others were far less polite.
Oleg Morozov, a member of the main Kremlin party, the United Russia, said that Gorbachev should have “repented” for the errors that hurt Russia's interests.
“There is a mystical coincidence in Gorbachev passing away at a time when the special military operation in Ukraine,” Morozov said in remarks carried by the state RIA Novosti news agency. “He was a willing or an unwilling co-author of the unfair world order that our soldiers are now fighting on the battlefield.”
Nikolai Kolomeitsev, the deputy head of the Communist faction in the Duma, went even further, denouncing Gorbachev as a “traitor” who “destroyed the state.”
Gobachev’s foundation said that he will be buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife. The date hasn’t been set yet and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he will be given a state funeral.
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