World hails 'one-of-a-kind' ex-Soviet leader Gorbachev

AFP , Wednesday 31 Aug 2022

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union who played a major role in ending the Cold War, died in Moscow on Tuesday aged 91.

Gorbachev and Bush
In this file photo taken on July 31, 1991 US President George Bush (L) and Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev confer during their joint press conference 31 July 1991 in Moscow concluding the two-day US-Soviet Summit dedicated to the disarmament.

World leaders were quick to pay tribute to the man who oversaw the collapse of the USSR, a pivotal turning point in world history.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his "deep sympathies" over Gorbachev's death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Peskov added that Putin, a former KGB agent who had an ambiguous relationship with Gorbachev, will send a telegram of condolences to the late leader's family and friends on Wednesday morning.

"Germany remains bound in gratitude with him for his decisive contribution to German unity, in respect with his courage to open the path to democracy and build bridges between east and west, and in remembrance of his great vision of a peaceful European home," President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

"Today that dream lies in ruins, destroyed by Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine."

"A one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history" and "did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War", Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, said in a statement.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed Gorbachev as a "trusted and respected leader" who "opened the way for a free Europe".

His "crucial role" in bringing down the Iron Curtain and ending the Cold War left a legacy "we will not forget", she wrote on Twitter.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he "always admired the courage and integrity" Gorbachev showed to bring the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion.

"In a time of Putin's aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all," he said in a Twitter post.

President Emmanuel Macron of France described Gorbachev as a "man of peace" on Twitter early Wednesday, saying he "opened a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history".

"Mikhail Gorbachev was one of the 20th century's most extraordinary figures," the Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement.

"He was a brave and visionary leader, who shaped our world in ways previously thought unimaginable."

"Upon the passing of Mikhail Gorbachev we remember a courageous leader who left his distinct mark on history by choosing reforms over oppression and by making an important contribution to a peaceful end of the cold war," Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Store, wrote on Twitter.

"In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev spoke at the World Youth Festival, tens and thousands of young people, including me, heard another tone, a hope for another future away from the repression and Cold War," Foreign Minister of Sweden, Ann Linde, wrote on Twitter.

"He made a difference. So immensely sad the present leader is taking the opposite way."

Russian winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, Dmitry Muratov, on Wednesday also hailed the last leader of the Soviet Union and fellow Nobel peace laureate Mikhail Gorbachev after his death at the age of 91.

Gorbachev "loved a woman more than his work, put human rights above the state, and valued a peaceful sky more than personal power," Muratov said in a tribute published by leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which Gorbachev helped set up with part of his Nobel winnings.

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