VILNIUS – Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev played the role of a “prison warden” and former countries of the Soviet Union broke free from that prison without his help, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.
“In my view, he played the role of a prison warden who decided to initiate certain partial reforms in the prison: to repaint the façade, to allow prisoners read newspapers, to keep the light bulb on for a longer amount of time, and so on and so forth,” he said in comments sent to BNS on Wednesday.
“However, it was only a reform of this type whereas prisoners wanted to break free. They did that but against the will of Mikhail Gorbachev. Hence he initiated reforms, which he did not manage to keep in control later,” Nauseda said.
With Western leaders on Wednesday expressing condolences over the death of last Soviet leader, the Lithuanian president also stressed that Gorbachev had described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the biggest mistake”, which put him alongside the leaders of present Russia, which unleashed a war against Ukraine six months ago.
“Therefore, I definitely could not see him as a reformist whom we should pay our deepest respect,” Nauseda pointed out.
According to him, it was Gorbachev, with his so-called reform policy and fostered certain illusions of “an allegedly different” face of the Soviet Union, who prompted the West to cling, for a long time, to its policy of cooperation and partnership with Russia, “which later spilled into Nord Stream 1, Nord Stream 2” projects.
“And now the time has come to pay dearly for those illusions, which the West had been cherishing for 20, 30 or even more years. The assessment of Gorbachev’s role depends on who is making the assessment. The countries that weren’t in that prison saw the façade, which the Soviet Union tried to repaint, whereas we saw it from within, being in that prison,” he added.
Gorbachev died in Moscow aged 91 after a serious and long illness on Tuesday.
He served as the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between 1985 and 1991.
Families of people who were killed during the January 1991 crackdown sought to hold Gorbachev accountable for the January 13 killings up until his death.
They seek to prove that, as commander-in-chief of the Soviet Armed Forces, he had control of the army on January 11-13, 1991, but failed to take steps to prevent an international crime of aggression from being committed.
Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.