The 91-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev, the former head of the Soviet Union who peacefully ended the Cold War, has passed away.
When Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he opened up the Soviet Union to the outside world and enacted a number of reforms that eased tensions with the West, but he was powerless to stop the Soviet Union’s demise, which gave rise to modern Russia.
The hospital in Moscow where he died said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness.
For some years his health has been in decline and he had been in and out of hospital. In June, Russian media reported that he had been admitted after suffering from a kidney ailment, though his cause of death has not been announced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his deepest condolences following Mr Gorbachev’s death, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
US President Joe Biden called him a “rare leader” and praised Gorbachev as a unique politician who had the “imagination to see that a different future was possible” amid the tensions of the Cold War.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised him as a “trusted and respected leader” who “opened the way for a free Europe”.
“This legacy is one we will not forget,” she added.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he admired Gorbachev’s courage and integrity, adding: “In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”
UN chief António Guterres said he “changed the course of history”.
“Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a kind statesman,” UN Secretary General Guterres wrote on Twitter. “The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”
Gorbachev reached arms control deals with the US, refused to intervene when eastern European nations rose up against their Communist rulers and ended the bloody Soviet war in Afghanistan that had raged since 1979.
Also his policy of openness, allowed people to criticise the government in a way which had been previously unthinkable.
It also unleashed nationalist sentiments in many regions of the country which eventually undermined the stability of the country and led to its collapse.
In 1987, former US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 “for the leading role he played in the radical changes in East-West relations”.
In 1991, after an organised coup by communist hardliners failed, Gorbachev agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union and left office.
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