MOSCOW    -    Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who launched drastic reforms that helped end the Cold War and pre­cipitated the break-up of the Soviet Union, has been bur­ied on Saturday after a fare­well ceremony attended by thousands of mourners but snubbed by Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s refusal to de­clare a state funeral reflects its uneasiness about the legacy of Gorbachev, who has been ven­erated worldwide for bring­ing down the Iron Curtain but reviled by many at home for the Soviet collapse and the ensuing economic melt­down that plunged millions into poverty. On Thursday, Mr Putin privately laid flow­ers at Mr Gorbachev’s open coffin at the Moscow hospi­tal where he died. The Krem­lin said the president’s busy schedule would prevent him from attending the funeral. Asked what specific business will keep Mr Putin busy on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president will have a series of working meetings, an international phone call, and needs to prepare for a business forum in Russia’s Far East he is scheduled to attend next week. Mr Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, was buried at Mos­cow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife Raisa, follow­ing a farewell ceremony at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, an opulent 18th-century mansion near the Kremlin that has served as the venue for state funerals since Soviet times. At the farewell event, mourners passed by Mr Gorbachev’s open casket flanked by honorary guards, laying flowers as solemn mu­sic played. His daughter Irina and his two granddaughters sat beside the coffin.

The grand, chandeliered hall lined by columns hosted balls for the nobility under the tsars and served as a ven­ue for high-level meetings and congresses along with state funerals during Soviet times.

Upon entering the building, mourners saw guards flanking a large photo of Mr Gorbachev standing with a broad smile, a reminder of the cheerful vigour he brought to the So­viet leadership after a series of dour, ailing predecessors.