Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to stay away from the funeral on Saturday of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, sends a deliberate message that underlines his differing view of the world, one of Russia's most prominent journalists has said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had a "full working day" on Saturday, including what he called internal meetings, an international phone call and preparations for an economic forum in Vladivostok next week.

Instead, the Russian leader on Thursday visited the Moscow hospital where Gorbachev died aged 91 two days earlier, and placed red roses beside the late politician's coffin.

According to Vladimir Pozner, a veteran journalist who interviewed Gorbachev many times and who knows Russia's political elite well, Putin's decision not to attend the funeral was a calculated one.

"I think it's a kind of a statement," Pozner, 88, told Reuters in an interview.

"And I don't think that Mr Putin is a particular fan of Mr Gorbachev. That's his right, he doesn't have to be. I think they saw the world very differently."

Putin called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, over which Gorbachev unwittingly presided, the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century which he would reverse if given a chance.

Gorbachev was devastated too by the collapse of the USSR which he had hoped to reform and preserve. More than three decades later, many Russians still blame him for the break-up of the former superpower.

Putin's decision to launch what he called "a special military operation" in Ukraine appears aimed at reversing, at least in part, the collapse which Gorbachev failed to prevent.

Pozner, who said he admired and liked Gorbachev even though the late politician had used crude language to berate him in their last phone conversation, said that Putin's attitude to Boris Yeltsin, his immediate successor, was very different.

That can be seen in the starkly different ways the Kremlin has approached the two politicians' funerals.

Gorbachev's body will lie in state on Saturday in Moscow's Hall of Columns, a grand venue near the Kremlin that hosted the funerals of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. But though Gorbachev will be given a military guard of honour his funeral will not be a state one.

By contrast, Putin declared a national day of mourning when Yeltsin, the man who named him as his successor, died in 2007. Putin, alongside world leaders, then attended a grand state funeral in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Pozner suggested that Yeltsin's desire to eclipse Gorbachev, whom he loathed, may have been one of the reasons the Soviet Union fell.

"You know that Gorbachev ?eased to be President of the USSR because of Yeltsin," said Pozner.

"Yeltsin, in my opinion, broke up the Soviet Union precisely to become President. Because as long as there was the Soviet Union, there was a President Gorbachev. And when the Soviet Union disappeared - President Gorbachev disappeared and you had President Yeltsin," he said.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)