Mikhail Gorbachev was “shocked and bewildered” by the war between Russia and Ukraine in the months leading up to his death, his interpreter said.

Pavel Palazhchenko worked as an interpreter for the former Soviet leader for 37 years and spoke to him on the phone a few weeks before he died August 30.

As a vocal critic of Vladimir PoutineMr Palazhchenko said his former boss was upset by the deterioration of the Kremlin’s relations with Kyiv.

Speaking to Reuters, he said: “It’s not just the operation that started on February 24, but the whole development of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the past few years that really, really was a blow to him.

“It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically.

“It was very evident to us in our conversations with him that he was shocked and confused by what was happening for all sorts of reasons.

“He didn’t just believe in the closeness of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, he believed that these two nations were intertwined.”

Learn more about Mikhail Gorbachev

The Kremlin said Thursday that Mr. Putin would not attend Mr. Gorbachev’s funeral due to conflicts in his “work schedule”.

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Vladimir Putin pays tribute to Mr. Gorbachev at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow

He was pictured laying flowers on the late president’s open coffin on Thursday.

Having eased tensions with the United States and helped end the Cold War, Mr. Gorbachev’s foreign policy strategy was almost the opposite of Mr. Putin’s.

The late leader backed a protest movement against Putin that followed a flawed election in 2011.

Mr Gorbachev also criticized Mr Putin’s decision to return to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.

The current president retaliated by accusing the former Soviet president of “abdicating” power.

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The Life and Legacy of Gorbachev

A year later, Mr. Gorbachev said of Russia and Mr. Putin: “Politics is increasingly turning into an imitation of democracy. All power is in the hands of the authorities and the president.

“The economy is monopolized. Corruption has taken on colossal proportions.”

Mr. Pavel Palazhchenko with his memoirs of his years with Mr. Gorbachev in 1997
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Mr. Pavel Palazhchenko with his memoirs of his years with Mr. Gorbachev in 1997

Gorbachev-Ukraine relations complicated by views on Crimea

Although apparently disgusted by the war, Mr. Gorbachev’s relationship with Ukraine was not straightforward.

In 2016, Kyiv banned it after he told the Sunday Times that he would have done the same as Mr Putin by illegally annexing Crimea.

He told the newspaper: “I am always with the free will of the people and most in Crimea want to be reunited with Russia.”

Mr Palazhchenko, who at 73 had remained in regular contact with Mr Gorbachev and his daughter Irina, said relations were made difficult by the fact that he still believed in the Soviet Union – despite its collapse in 1991.

“Of course, in his heart, the kind of mind map for him and for most people of his political generation is still some kind of fantasy land that includes most of the former Soviet Union,” he said. he declares.

But when asked whether Mr Gorbachev would have invaded Ukraine, he replied: “Of course, I can’t imagine him saying ‘that’s it, and I will do everything to impose it’, no.”

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