This photo taken on August 31, 2022 at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow shows the grave of Raisa Gorbacheva, the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union who played a major role in ending the Cold War, and died in Moscow on August 30, 2022 aged 91. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

It was Mikhail Gorbachev’s wish to be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, next to his wife Raisa. The cemetery takes its name from the Novodevichy Convent next door. Many celebrities are buried here, including Gorbachev’s successor in the Kremlin, Boris Yeltsin, and one of his predecessors, Nikita Khrushchev. If you stroll through the large area, you can discover the graves of the writers Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol or the composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich.

When Yeltsin was buried there in 2007, guests from all over the world paid their last respects. Ex-Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton traveled from the USA, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl had to cancel for health reasons. Germany was represented by then Federal President Horst Koehler.

Eight years earlier, Gorbachev had said goodbye to his beloved wife Raisa. He leaned over the open coffin and gave her one last kiss on the forehead. In a eulogy, Kohl paid tribute to the Gorbachevs’ 46-year marriage. Former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher also said goodbye to the wife of his political companion. The then President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, also attended the funeral.

On Saturday, Gorbachev is to be buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery. According to the family, the funeral service will take place in the “House of Trade Unions” near the Kremlin. However, it is still completely unclear which foreign guests will pay their last respects to the deceased in Moscow.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, relations between the West and Russia are more strained than they have been since the end of the Soviet Union. Numerous Western politicians have been banned from entering Russia – the Kremlin’s reaction to the sanctions imposed on Russia after February 24.

Since that day at the latest, most Western heads of state and government have refrained from visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin anyway. So a trip to Russia would be diplomatically sensitive at this point in time.

However, the Kremlin does not seem to be interested in a genuine tribute to Gorbachev. For Putin, the end of the Soviet Union, inadvertently brought about by Gorbachev, is the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. While active and former politicians in Germany and other countries have been speaking since Tuesday evening, acknowledging Gorbachev’s role in ending the Cold War, nothing was heard from the Kremlin for many hours about the life’s work of the former Soviet head of state. Putin expressed his condolences, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president would send a telegram of condolence to the family.

It was not until late Wednesday morning that Putin’s statement appeared on the Kremlin’s website, which appeared sober and distanced compared to the worldwide expressions of mourning. “Mikhail Gorbachev was a politician and statesman who exerted great influence on the course of world history,” Putin wrote in his telegram to relatives. Gorbachev led the country “in a time of difficult, dramatic changes”. “He deeply understood the need for reform and strove to propose his own solutions to pressing problems.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) did not want to comment on the question of whether he would attend Gorbachev’s funeral service. Now is not the place or the time to talk about travel, said the Chancellor on the sidelines of the cabinet meeting in Meseberg. “I hope that the Russian state will give its former leader the honor he deserves.”

The cautious reminder seemed entirely justified. A state funeral for Gorbachev is not planned, the Russian state news agency Interfax reported, citing two unnamed sources.