PARIS — 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.
World leaders were quick to pay tribute to the man who oversaw the collapse of the USSR, a pivotal turning point in world history.
US President Joe Biden hailed former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who passed away Wednesday in Moscow aged 91, as a “rare leader” who made the world safer.
“These were the acts of a rare leader – one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it,” Biden said in a statement, referring to Gorbachev’s democratic reforms. “The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”
Russia’s leader 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.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement praised Gorbachev as “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.”
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, which symbolized the division of the world into communist and capitalist blocs, and ending the Cold War left a legacy “we will not forget”, she wrote on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron 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”.
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, referring to Moscow’s offensive in its former Soviet neighbor.