Former USSR Leader Mikhail Gorbachev Dies Aged 91

The last of the Soviet Union leaders, Mikhail Gorbachev, died in Moscow at aged 91, Russian media reported.

The Interfax, RIA Novosti and TASS news agencies quoted Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital as saying that the former USSR leader had died “after a serious and long illness.” However, the cause of his death was not revealed.

Mr. Gorbachev had been confined to a clinic during the Covid-19 pandemic. In June, it was revealed that he was suffering from long-term kidney problems and had been admitted to a hospital for treatment, including dialysis.

When Mr. Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he implemented a number of domestic reforms with a great impact on the region’s politics. Some resulting changes included Germany’s reunification, Stalin’s empire collapse, and the end of conflicts with the West.

The former USSR leader’s reforms also led to the liberation of Eastern European nations, including Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic republics, after years under Russian rule. He also contributed to the end of the Cold War in a peaceful way.

However, he could not stop the Soviet Union’s slow collapse, which gave rise to contemporary Russia.

Current President Vladimir Putin, who has called the USSR’s collapse the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, and other Russian nationalists have scorned him for years.

However, in a statement following his death, Mr. Putin’s political advisers said that he expressed his deepest condolences on Mr. Gorbachev’s death.

Western leaders have also reacted to the news, paying tributes to the former USSR leader across the world.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said that Mr. Gorbachev had been one of a kind and had changed the course of history.

“The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace,” the UN secretary-general wrote on Twitter.

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen also expressed her condolences on Mr. Gorbachev’s death, saying the world will not forget his legacy and praising him as a “trusted and respected” leader who paved the way for a free Europe.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed that he admired the former USSR leader’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.”