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Funeral held for Mikhail Gorbachev even as hundreds prevented from paying final respects

Thousands of mourners lined Moscow streets Saturday to pay their respects at the official funeral of the final leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at 91 after “a serious and long illness,” did not have a full state send-off at the historic Hall of Columns, where funerals for Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin also took place.

A Kremlin spokesman told reporters that while there were “elements of a state funeral” included in the Saturday ceremony, such as a guard of honor, he stopped short of describing it as a state-sponsored event.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin did not attend the 3 1/2-hour service, citing his work schedule, a Kremlin spokesman told reporters.

Putin, who paid his respects to Gorbachev earlier in the week, has blamed Gorbachev for “the greatest catastrophe” of the 20th century — the splintering of the Soviet Union. As leader of the Communist Party in 1985, Gorbachev launched “perestroika” or restructuring, and “glasnost,” a new openness, that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 while he was president.

Gorbachev will be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to his wife Raisa, who died of cancer in 1999.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend Gorbachev’s funeral.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
Gorbachev did not have a full state funeral at the Hall of Columns.
Gorbachev did not have a full state funeral at the Hall of Columns.
Russian pool via AP

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