- Former USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev died Tuesday at the age of 91, Russian news agencies reported.
- In July, a close friend told Forbes Russia that Gorbachev was “upset” with the current state of Russia.
- The friend said Gorbachev felt that “his life’s work” had been ruined.
A month before Mikhail Gorbachev’s death, a close friend said the former USSR president was upset at the current state of Russia and felt that his “life’s work” had been ruined.
Russian media reported the death of Gorbachev on Tuesday, at the age of 91. Reports earlier this summer stated he was suffering from a serious kidney ailment.
Gorbachev was the last president of the Soviet Union before it collapsed. He helped end the Cold War and usher in a new age of warmer relationships between Moscow and the West.
About a month before his death, journalist Alexei Venidiktov, who was close friends with Gorbachev, expressed to Forbes Russia that Gorbachev was “upset” at the current state of Russia and felt that his “life’s work” had been undone.
Venidiktov was interviewed about the closing of his radio station, following President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on the press in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Venidiktov pointed out how a lot of the work Gorbachev did in office — tempering tensions with the West and granting citizens more freedoms — had been reversed recently under Putin. Putin stoked tensions with NATO by deciding to invade Ukraine in February, threatening broader conflict in Eastern Europe, and prompting widespread sanctions. At home, he’s cracked down on dissension by censoring the press and arresting citizens who protest.
“What Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev did is all destroyed. All Gorbachev’s reforms to zero, to ashes, to smoke… When Gorbachev left, there were 4,000 people left in NATO’s rapid reaction force in Europe. Now NATO has announced that there will be 300,000 by the end of next year,” Venidiktov said.
“I can tell you that Gorbachev is upset, of course, he understands. It was his life’s work. Freedom is Gorbachev’s business. Everyone has already forgotten who gave freedom to the Russian Orthodox Church. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Private property — Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. So what is he going to say now?”
Gorbachev never said anything publicly about his thoughts on the Ukraine war.
Over the years, he both criticized and praised Putin publicly, according to The Washington Post. The Post reported that Gorbachev commended Putin for helping to strengthen Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but worried about his limitations on a free press.
Putin had not yet commented on Gorbachev’s death as of Monday afternoon.