Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral because of his “work schedule”, the Kremlin has said.
Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and one of the most significant figures of the 20th century, will be laid to rest on Saturday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the ceremony will have “elements” of a state funeral, including a guard of honour, and the government was helping with the organisation.
Mr Peskov said Mr Putin had paid his respects on Thursday morning by visiting and laying a wreath at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, where Mr Gorbachev died on Tuesday.
However, he confirmed the president will not be attending the funeral.
Mr Peskov said: “Unfortunately, the president’s work schedule will not allow him to do this on 3 September, so he decided to do it today.”
Mr Putin paid tribute to Mr Gorbachev on Wednesday as a leader who had a “huge impact on the course of world history” and found his “own solutions to urgent problems”.
The Russian president said in a statement: “He led our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes, large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges.
“He deeply understood that reforms were necessary, he strove to offer his own solutions to urgent problems.”
Mr Putin also noted the “great humanitarian, charitable, education activities” carried out by Mr Gorbachev in the years before his death aged 91.
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Mr Gorbachev was known for ending the Cold War without bloodshed, but failed to prevent the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mr Putin has famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, Mr Gorbachev was a vocal critic of Mr Putin’s style of leadership and openly backed a protest movement that followed fraud-tainted elections in 2011.
Mr Gorbachev also criticised Mr Putin’s decision to return to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.
The Russian president hit back by accusing the former Soviet president of “abdicating” power.
A year later, Mr Gorbachev said of Russia and Mr Putin: “Politics is more and more turning into an imitation of democracy. All power is in the hands of the authorities and the president.
“The economy is monopolised. Corruption has taken on colossal proportions.”
Mr Gorbachev is a popular figure in the West, with US President Joe Biden paying tribute to a man who believed “in a better world” and dramatically reduced the potential for a third world war.
However, his legacy in Russia is conflicted – with many blaming him for the widespread poverty which Russians endured after the Soviet Union’s collapse.