Gorbachev died shocked and stunned by war in Ukraine, interpreter tells

Pavel Palazhchenko, now 73, worked for Mikhail Gorbachev for 37 years, assisting him in dozens of summits with the US. The interpreter also kept in touch with him and his daughter Irina in the years after Gorbachev’s disappearance from the political scene.

A few weeks ago he spoke to the former Soviet leader on the phone and heard Palazhchenko how traumatized he was by the events in Ukraine. “It wasn’t just the operation that started on February 24. The whole evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine in recent years has been a very heavy blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” the interpreter told Reuters.

Mikhail Gorbachev during a meeting with US President Ronald Reagan on December 8, 1987.Image AP

“It was very clear to us in our conversations with him that he was shocked and stunned for all sorts of reasons by what was happening. Not only did he believe in the closeness of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, he also believed that those two nations were intertwined,” Palazhchenko said.

Diplomatic solution

Gorbachev himself had family ties to Ukraine and believed in a diplomatic solution to problems, says the man, pointing out that the ex-Soviet leader’s position on Ukraine was complex and contradictory, because he still believed in the idea of ​​the Soviet Union. Union.

Like his contemporaries, he clung to the idea of ​​an imagined country comprising most of the former Soviet Union, but Gorbachev would never have gone to war to re-create that unification, Palazhchenko said. “Of course I can’t imagine him saying, ‘This is it. And I’ll do anything to impose it.’”


Image REUTERS

While Gorbachev was convinced that it was his duty to show respect and support to Putin, according to his interpreter, he has openly expressed his disagreement with the current Russian president on several occasions, including over his treatment of the media. However, he committed himself not to make any sustained comment on events in Ukraine, with the exception of a statement in February calling for an end to hostilities and for humanitarian problems to be addressed.

Palazhchenko acknowledges that some Russians don’t think much of Gorbachev because of the economic and geopolitical turmoil that followed the USSR’s collapse in 1991, but his legacy is significant, he stresses. Gorbachev not only helped end the Cold War and reduce the risk of nuclear war, but also voluntarily dismantled totalitarianism within the Soviet Union and gave Russia a chance at freedom and democracy. “I think he remained optimistic about Russia’s future, despite the fact that his own legacy was mutilated, and what he considered ‘unfair criticism’,” the interpreter said. “He believed that the people of Russia are very talented people and once they get a chance, maybe a second chance, that talent will show.”

The man is clearly annoyed by the criticism for Gorbachev on social media. His former employer was convinced that history would eventually show that he did the right thing. “He liked to say that history is a fickle lady. I think he believed and expected that the final verdict would be positive for him.”

The article is in Dutch

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