December 9, 2022

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Gorbachev was shocked and troubled by the war in Ukraine in the last months of his life, claims his translator

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was shocked and disturbed by the conflict in Ukraine in the last months of his life and psychologically crushed in recent years due to the deterioration of Russia’s relations with Ukraine, claims his translator, Pavel Palajchenko.

Pavel Palahenko, who worked with the late Soviet president for 37 years and was with him at numerous US-USSR summits, spoke to Gorbachev several weeks ago on the phone and said he and others were stunned how much the events in Ukraine traumatized Gorbachev.

Not only the (special military) operation that started on February 24, but the entire evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine in recent years was really a strong blow for him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologicallyPalajcenko told Reuters in an interview, according to

It was very evident in our conversations with him that he was shocked and disturbed by what was happening (after Russian troops entered Ukraine in February) for all kinds of reasons. He believed not only in the closeness of the Russian and Ukrainian people, but that those two nations are intertwined“, he continued.

Mikhail Gorbachev still believed in the idea of ​​the Soviet Union

In the photos of the summits of the 1980s with US President Ronald Reagan, Palajchenko can be seen numerous times with Gorbachev.

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The translator, aged 73, knew the state of mind of the late politician in the period before he died, after visiting him in the last months and keeping in touch with the daughter of the former Soviet president, Irina.

Gorbachev, who was 91 and died on Tuesday of an unspecified illness, had family ties to Ukraine, Palajchenko said. Gorbachev’s wife’s father was originally from Ukraine.

Palajchenko added that Gorbachev believed that problems could only be solved through political means. He alleged that the former Soviet leader was either not aware of some bloody episodes, or authorized the use of force to prevent chaos with “extreme reluctance”.

Gorbachev’s position towards Ukraine was complex and contradictory in his own mind, Palajchenko also said, because the late politician still believed in the idea of ​​the Soviet Union.

Of course, in his heart, the kind of mental map for him and most people of his political generation is still this imaginary country that includes most of the former Soviet Union“, according to the translator.

However, Gorbachev would not have gone to war to restore the now-defunct country he ruled from 1985-1991, he suggested.

Gorbachev believed it was his duty to show Putin respect and support, and his former translator said he spoke publicly when he disagreed with Putin, such as his treatment of the media. But Gorbachev had decided not to “provide a follow-up comment” on Ukraine, apart from approving a statement in February calling for a quick end to hostilities and addressing humanitarian concerns.

Gorbachev’s relationship with Ukraine was sometimes difficult. Kiev banned him from entering the country in 2016, after he told the British Sunday Times that he would have acted in the same way as Putin did in 2014 regarding the annexation of Crimea.

“I always stand by the free will of the people and most people in Crimea wanted to be reunited with Russia,” Gorbachev said at the time, referring to the result of a referendum that Kiev and the West called illegal.

Some Ukrainians also accuse him of the initial cover-up of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s own legacy, ‘mutilated’

While acknowledging that some Russians and some people from the former Soviet empire had extremely negative views of Gorbachev for the economic and geopolitical turmoil that followed the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Palajchenko argued that Gorbachev’s legacy is still substantial.

Not only did he help end the Cold War and reduce the risk of nuclear war, he said, but he voluntarily dismantled totalitarianism in the Soviet Union and gave Russia a chance for freedom and democracy.

I think he remained optimistic about Russia’s future“, despite the fact that his own legacy was “mutilated” and received what he called “unfair criticism”, Palajchenko also said.

He believed that the people of Russia were very talented people and once they were given a chance, maybe a second chance, that talent… would show“, evoked the translator.

He liked to say that history is a fickle lady. I think he believed and expected that the final verdict would be positive for himPalajchenko concluded, referring to the netizens who criticized the former Soviet leader after his death.

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