Interpreter Gorbachev: He was shocked and confused about the war in Ukraine

Interpreter Gorbachev: He was shocked and confused about the war in Ukraine
Interpreter Gorbachev: He was shocked and confused about the war in Ukraine

“It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” his interpreter Pavel Palazchenko said of the last Soviet leader

THE Mikhail Gorbachev, The last leader of the Soviet Union was shocked and confused by the war in Ukraine months before he died and had been psychologically devastated in recent years by Moscow’s deteriorating ties with Kyiv, his interpreter Pavel Palazchenko told Reuters in an interview today. .

THE Pavel Palazchenkowho worked with Gorbachev for 37 consecutive years and was by his side at numerous summits, spoke with Gorbachev a few weeks ago by phone and said he had struck him and others how hurt he had been by events in Ukraine.

“It’s not just the (special military) operation that started on February 24, but the whole development of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the last few years that was really, really a big blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” Palazchenko said in his interview.

“It was very clear in our conversations with him that he was shocked and confused by what was happening (after Russian troops entered Ukraine in February) for a number of reasons. He believed not only in the closeness of the Russian and Ukrainian people, but also that these two nations were interconnected.”

In the photos of the summits of the 1980s with the president of the USA Ronald Reaganthe moustachioed Palazchenko with the characteristic alopecia, seems always to be at Gorbachev’s side, leaning in to listen and translate every word.

Palazchenko, now 73, was in a position to know the late politician’s state of mind in the period before his death, having seen him in recent months and been in contact with Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina.

Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, had family ties to Ukraine, Palazchenko said in an interview from the headquarters of the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow, where he works and where Gorbachev had his office in it held a large photograph of his late wife Raisa, whose father was from the Ukraine.


During his tenure, Gorbachev tried to keep the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, united, but failed after his reforms encouraged many of them to seek independence.

Soviet forces used lethal force in some cases during the last days of the USSR against civilians. Politicians in Lithuania and Latvia recalled the events with horror after Gorbachev’s death, saying they still blamed him for the bloodshed.

Palazchenko said that Gorbachev, who he said believed in solving problems exclusively by political means, either did not know about some of these bloody incidents in advance or approved “extremely reluctantly” the use of force to prevent chaos .

Gorbachev’s position on Ukraine was complicated and contradictory in his mind, Palazchenko said, because the late politician still believed in the idea of ​​the Soviet Union.

“Of course, at the heart of it the kind of mental map for him and for most people of his political generation was still a kind of imaginary country that includes most of the former Soviet Union,” Palazchenko said.

But Gorbachev would not have waged war to rebuild a country of which he was president from 1985 to 1991, he reckoned.

“Of course I can’t imagine him saying ‘this is it, and I’ll do anything to enforce it.’ No”.

While Gorbachev believed it was his duty to show respect and support to Putin, his former interpreter said he spoke publicly when he disagreed with him, such as over the treatment of the media. But he had taken the decision not to “comment on the current situation” in Ukraine, beyond a statement he made in February calling for an early end to hostilities and for humanitarian issues to be addressed.

Gorbachev’s relationship with Ukraine has been difficult at times. Kyiv banned him in 2016 after he told the British newspaper Sunday Times that he would have acted in the same way as Putin did in 2014 in the annexation of Crimea.

“I am always in favor of the free will of the people and most people in Crimea wanted to be reunited with Russia,” Gorbachev said at the time, referring to the result of the referendum that Kyiv and the West had called illegal.

Some Ukrainians also blame him for the initial cover-up of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.


Palazchenko, while admitting that some Russians and people throughout the former Soviet empire had extremely negative views of Gorbachev due to the economic and geopolitical turmoil that followed the collapse of the USSR in 1991, argues that Gorbachev’s legacy is still significant.

He said he not only helped end the Cold War and reduce the risk of nuclear war, but knowingly dismantled totalitarianism within the Soviet Union and gave Russia a chance for freedom and democracy.

“I think he remained optimistic about the future of Russia,” despite the fact that his own legacy was “destroyed,” and he considered that “unfair criticism,” Palazchenko said.

“He believed that people in Russia are very talented people and once they are given a chance, maybe a second chance, their talent … will show.”

Palazchenko, who recalled U.S.-Soviet summits during the Cold War and conversations he had with Gorbachev in the limousine after White House talks, said he and his colleagues now have a duty to search Gorbachev’s papers and books at the late politician’s state dacha outside Moscow, as there is much material that has not yet been systematically recorded in his archive.

Apparently angered by criticism of Gorbachev after his death by some on social media, whom he called “miscreants”, Palazchenko said his former employer believed history would judge him rightly.

“He liked to say that History is a fickle lady. I think he believed and expected that the final verdict will be positive for him,” said Palazchenko.

Source: RES-EMP

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