In Russia, some attack Gorbachev's legacy but media reaction is low-key

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Celebrations of the Victory Day marking the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two

(Reuters) - Some pro-Kremlin politicians and commentators criticised the legacy of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Wednesday, while state media reported his death in mostly low-key fashion.

Gorbachev's passing was the first item on Russia's flagship Channel One news bulletin, where a five-minute retrospective emphasised his desire to improve the Soviet economy and his common touch, while also suggesting he lacked decisiveness and trusted the United States too much.

A morning bulletin on another channel, Rossiya 24, took 12 minutes to get to the news, relegating it to the number three item behind an educational forum in Moscow and a planned visit by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant near the front line of fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday aged 91, drew huge admiration in the West for his pivotal role in ending the Cold War peacefully, but many in Russia revile him for presiding over the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Lyubov Sobol, an ally of jailed Putin opponent Alexei Navalny, wrote: "There are really different assessments of Gorbachev. Some write that he gave hope, others curse him for the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would have collapsed anyway. And the role of Gorbachev in history in Russia will still be appreciated."

Sergei Mironov, leader of the A Just Russia political party, said: "For the Soviet people, he became a breath of fresh air and a hope for colossal changes. Everything turned out differently: we lost a wonderful country, instead of order came chaos. Today we are correcting and will certainly correct Gorbachev's mistakes."

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency, expressed his condolences but said the country was still dealing with the consequences of Gorbachev's "perestroika" reforms.

"It fell to Gorbachev to lead the country in a very difficult period, to face many external and internal challenges, for which an adequate response was not found," he said.

In the Kremlin-controlled press, reaction to Gorbachev's death was restrained. Populist tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published a tribute to the Soviet Union's last leader, though it acknowledged that Gorbachev's critics at home would seek to undo his legacy.

"But they won't be able to. Mikhail Sergeyevich has done too much. He changed the world too irreversibly for his ideological opponents," the paper wrote.

(Reporting by Felix Light, Ben Tavener and Mark Trevelyan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)