Thousands of Russians bid farewell to Gorbachev

STORY: The last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was laid to rest on Saturday (September 3).

Gorbachev, who presided over the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991, died on Tuesday (August 30) aged 91.

Much like the funerals of previous Soviet leaders, Gorbachev’s body lay in state in Moscow’s grand Hall of Columns.

But unlike his predecessors, Gorbachev was denied a full state funeral.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin was noticeably absent.

He briefly paid his respects on Thursday (September 1) at the hospital where Gorbachev died, but said his busy Kremlin schedule prevented him from attending Saturday’s service.

Putin's no-show is seen by some as a calculated snub by the former KGB officer who has rolled back many of Gorbachev's reforms.

Putin has called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century".

Also absent were many Western heads of state and government, who normally would have attended, kept away by the chasm in relations between Moscow and the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One European leader who did attend was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who was seen placing flowers by Gorbachev’s coffin.

Orban is one of the few European leaders to have good relations with Putin.

Gorbachev's legacy still divides opinion inside - and outside - of Russia.

Nevertheless, thousands of Russians of all ages lined up to pay their respects.

"I think that this person deserved a real people's farewell ceremony. He is a historic person, no matter how some feel about him. He did a lot. I think he did more good, but some think that he did more bad."

Best known in the West for helping end the Cold War and reducing his country’s nuclear stockpile, Gorbachev unwittingly presided over the Soviet Union's demise.

His final resting place is in Moscow's Novodevichy cemetery, where he will be buried alongside his wife Raisa, who died 23 years ago.