Last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War, dies aged 91

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Aug 30 (Reuters) – Mikhail Gorbachev, who brought the Cold War to an end without bloodshed but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at the age of 91, reports announced officials of the Moscow hospital.

Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, entered into arms reduction agreements with the United States and partnerships with Western powers to remove the iron curtain that had divided Europe since World War II and bring about the reunification of Europe. Germany.

“Mikhail Gorbachev died this evening after a serious and prolonged illness,” Russia’s Central Clinical Hospital said in a statement.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “his deepest condolences” over Gorbachev’s death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency.

“Tomorrow he will send a condolence telegram to his family and friends,” he said.

Putin said in 2018 that he would reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union if he could, news agencies reported at the time.

In 2005, Putin called the event the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

After decades of Cold War tension and confrontation, Gorbachev brought the Soviet Union closer to the West than at any time since World War II.

But he saw that legacy shattered in the last months of his life, as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine brought down Western sanctions against Moscow, and Russian and Western politicians began to talk openly about a new war. cold.

“Gorbachev symbolically died when his life’s work, freedom, was effectively destroyed by Putin,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Gorbachev will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, Tass news agency reported, citing the foundation the former Soviet leader set up after leaving office.

When pro-democracy protests swept through the Soviet bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force – unlike former Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush the uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But the protests fueled the self-rule aspirations of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics, which disintegrated chaotically over the next two years. Read more

Gorbachev struggled in vain to prevent this collapse.

“The era of Gorbachev is the era of perestroika, the era of hope, the era of our entry into a world without missiles… but there was a miscalculation: we did not know good for our country,” said Vladimir Shevchenko, who headed Gorbachev’s protocol office when he was a Soviet leader.

“Our union collapsed, it was a tragedy and its tragedy,” he told the RIA news agency.

When he became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, at just 54, he set out to revitalize the system by introducing limited political and economic freedoms, but his reforms spiraled out of control. Read more

His policy of “glasnost” – freedom of speech – enabled previously unthinkable criticism of the party and state, but also emboldened nationalists who began pushing for independence in the Baltic republics of Latvia, from Lithuania, Estonia and elsewhere.

Many Russians have never forgiven Gorbachev for the turmoil his reforms have unleashed, seeing the subsequent fall in their standard of living as too high a price for democracy to pay.

“He gave us all freedom – but we don’t know what to do with it,” liberal economist Ruslan Grinberg told the armed forces newspaper Zvezda after visiting Gorbachev in hospital on June 30.

“Gorbachev lived to see some of his worst fears come true and his brightest dreams drowned in blood and filth. But historians will remember him fondly, and one day – I believe – Russians,” said said Cold War historian Sergey Radchenko.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Mark Trevelyan in London and Elaine Monaghan Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mark Trevelyan Editing by Kevin Liffey and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

David Ljunggren

Thomson Reuters

Covers political, economic and general news from Canada as well as breaking news across North America, previously based in London and Moscow and winner of Reuters Treasury Scoop of the Year.

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