No European leaders are expected to attend the funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, to be held in Moscow this morning, with Russian President Vladimir Putin also absent.
Despite London, Paris and Berlin esteeming Gorbachev for his contribution to ending the Cold War, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened tensions between the West and Moscow.
Due to the sanctions imposed on Russia and the Russian countermeasures, commercial flights between the country and EU member states have stopped.
At the same time, Moscow, in response to Western sanctions, has banned Western politicians from entering its territory.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had not received an invitation to attend Gorbachev’s funeral.
His predecessor Angela Merkel declined the invitation, citing a knee injury.
However, diplomats and ambassadors will attend the ceremony, including the French ambassador in Moscow Pierre Levy, as well as the American John Sullivan.
On Thursday, Putin went to the Moscow hospital where 91-year-old Gorbachev died after a “long and serious illness”.
The Russian president laid a bouquet of red roses near the open coffin of the last leader of the USSR, observed a minute’s silence and bowed his head in respect.
However, a day of national mourning was not declared in Russia, although, as the Kremlin underlined, his ceremony will have “all the elements of a state funeral”.
Gorbachev’s daughter Irina has stated that the ceremony will be modest and will take place today at 10:00 (local and Greek time).
His body will be displayed in the Hall of Columns, House of Trade Unions, near the Kremlin as was traditionally the case with Soviet leaders.
He will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery next to his wife Raisa who died in 1999.