For Ukrainians, Gorbachev remains an “imperialist”

For Ukrainians, Gorbachev remains an “imperialist”

For Ukrainians, Gorbachev remains an 'imperialist'

Demonstration in support of the sovereignty of Ukraine at the Kyiv airport on July 5, 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl   For Ukrainians, Gorbachev remains an «imperialist»

Mikhail Gorbachev unwittingly paved the way for Ukraine's independence, but support for the annexation of Crimea and silence about a Russian military invasion damaged his reputation among Ukrainians

Mikhail Gorbachev provoked the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which led to the formation of fifteen new independent countries, including Ukraine. However, Ukrainians, interviewed by journalists on the streets of Kyiv on August 31, did not hesitate in their expressions to the former “leader of the occupation” and “imperialist” Soviet power, and official Kyiv remains silent.

“I am very glad that he died. The more enemies and their supporters die, the happier I will be,” says Alexander Stepanov, 32.

Katerina Boyuk, a 17-year-old student, is convinced that Gorbachev really didn’t give a damn” about Ukraine and that the country’s independence had “nothing to do” with him. “He was just the ruler of the USSR and he failed to keep his throne,” she said.

“I think he's just as much of an aggressor as the current Kremlin leaders,” Vitalia Formanchuk, 43, said, adding that Gorbachev “worked hard to destroy Ukrainians, their culture and language.”

The apparent hostility of Ukrainians towards Gorbachev is explained by his silence about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Gorbachev, the most popular in the West, has never publicly commented on what has become Europe's biggest military conflict since World War II. However, one of his closest associates, Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, said in July that Gorbachev was “of course disappointed”. Crimea to Russia in 2014. He claimed that in the referendum, which is considered fictitious in the world, “the people” spoke in favor of joining the peninsula to Russia.

Gorbachev is perceived in Ukraine “with great skepticism – we do not share the enthusiasm that we see in obituaries around the world,” said Volodymyr Yermolenko, philosopher and editor-in-chief of the online publication The ukraineworld.com. – His fate is the same as that of many Russian reformers who want reforms, but only up to a certain limit: when people begin to doubt Russian imperialism and desire decolonization.

Gorbachev was in power in 1986 when nuclear reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl exploded, causing the world's worst nuclear accident. Moscow tried to downplay the scale of the disaster, which delayed the evacuation of local residents. Many blame this on Gorbachev personally, who allegedly tried to stage a May 1 parade in Kyiv five days later. Thousands of people, including children, marched through the city, holding flowers and singing songs, blissfully unaware of the radioactive cloud around them.

Gorbachev “was a typical Russian imperialist . He just did everything he could to save the USSR and restore the Russian Empire, which is now waging war against us,” popular blogger and activist Yuri Kasyanov wrote on Facebook.

Unloved by Russians , rejected by Ukrainians, Gorbachev spoke regularly about his Ukrainian roots: “After all, I am half Ukrainian. My mother was Ukrainian and so was my wife Raisa. I spoke my very first words in Ukrainian and the first songs I heard were Ukrainian,” he said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in 2015.