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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has led tributes from world leaders in memory of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who died at the age of 91.
In a statement, Guterres described Gorbachev as “a unique leader who has changed the world for the better.”
Gorbachev was ‘a unique statesman who changed the course of history. He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War,” Guterres said.
News organizations quoted a statement from the Central Clinical Hospital saying that the former Soviet prime minister died after a long illness. No other details were given.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “President Putin expresses his deepest condolences on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev.
“Tomorrow he will send a telegram of condolence to his family and friends.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I am saddened to hear of Gorbachev’s death. I have always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end.
“At a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”
Mikhail Gorbachev (pictured center), died at age 91, was the last leader of the Soviet Union, in power from 1985 to 1991
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I am saddened to hear of Gorbachev’s death. I have always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end.”
The Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute said it “mourns the loss of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who was once a political opponent of Ronald Reagan and who eventually became a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the Russian people.”
During his seven years in office, Gorbachev fought a losing battle to save a crumbling empire, but many believe he made extraordinary reforms that led to the end of the Cold War.
After their first meeting, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joked that Gorbachev was a man she could “do business with.”
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Mikhail Gorbachev “gave great services” but was “unable to carry out all his visions,” told BBC Newsnight: “The people of Eastern Europe and the German people, and ultimately the Russian people, are indebted to him for the inspiration, for the courage to come forward with these ideas of freedom.”
After once again acknowledging that Gorbachev was unable to carry out his full vision, Mr. Kissinger added: “He will still be remembered in history as a man who started historical transformations for the benefit of humanity.” and the Russian people.’
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote: ‘[Gorbachev] will forever be remembered as the last leader of the Soviet Union who had the courage and conviction to end the Cold War”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, wrote: ‘Michail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a vital role in ending the Cold War and bringing down the Iron Curtain.
In a tribute, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote: “One of the great figures of the 20th century, Mikhail Gorbachev’s drive for reform paved the way for diplomacy over conflict. He will be forever remembered as the last leader of the Soviet Union who had the courage and conviction to end the Cold War.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, wrote: ‘Michail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a vital role in ending the Cold War and bringing down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe. This legacy is one we will not forget. RIP Mikhail Gorbachev.’
Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice wrote: “I am saddened to learn of Mikhail Gorbachev’s passing. He was a man who tried to give his people a better life.
“His life had consequences, because without him and his courage it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully.”
Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice wrote: ‘His life was demanding because without him and his courage it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully’
The Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute said it “mourns the loss of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who was once a political opponent of Ronald Reagan and who eventually became a friend.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the people of Russia”
Although he was in power for less than seven years, Gorbachev brought about a series of crucial changes. But they soon caught up with him and resulted in the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the liberation of Eastern European nations from Russian rule and the end of decades of East-West nuclear confrontation.
His decline was serious. His power was undermined by an attempted coup against him in August 1991, and he spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declared independence until he stepped down on December 25, 1991.
The Soviet Union wrote itself into oblivion a day later.
Journalist Simon Sebag Montefiore said Gorbachev was a ‘statesman who faced the cruel truth of unintended consequences’
‘His death tells us how far removed Russia is from his vision,’ wrote former UKIP leader Nigel Farage
A quarter of a century after the collapse, Gorbachev told The Associated Press that he had not considered using widespread violence to hold the USSR together, fearing chaos in a nuclear country.
“The country was loaded to the brim with weapons. And it would have immediately pushed the country into civil war,” he said.
Many of the changes, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union, did not resemble the transformation Gorbachev envisioned when he became Soviet leader in March 1985.
Towards the end of his rule, he was powerless to stop the whirlwind he had sown. Yet Gorbachev may have had a greater influence on the latter half of the 20th century than any other political figure.
“I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were needed for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told The AP in a 1992 interview, shortly after he left office.
I often get the question: Would I have started it all over if I had to repeat it? Yes indeed. And with more perseverance and determination,” he said.
Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War and spent his later years collecting accolades and awards from all corners of the globe. Yet he was widely despised at home.
The Russians blamed him for the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 – a once-terrifying superpower whose territory was split into 15 separate nations. His former allies abandoned him and made him a scapegoat for the country’s problems.
The official Tass news agency reported that Gorbachev will be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.