Tributes flood in for ‘remarkable’ Soviet Union leader who ended Cold War

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BORIS Johnson and Joe Biden have paid tribute to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War. 

Former Russian leader Mr Gorbachev tragically died at the age of 91 in his home country on Tuesday night.

He presided over the dissolution of the USSR, which had existed for nearly 70 years.

Paying respect to the last head of the Communist state, Boris Johnson said he is “saddened” to hear that Mr Gorbachev died in a “time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine”.

The PM tweeted: “I always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing 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.”

And speaking in a statement, president Joe Biden commented: “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.

“The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people. Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision.”

Read our Mikhail Gorbachev live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Mikhail’s burial place

    Gorbachev’s wife Raisa, the former Soviet first lady, died in 1999.

    He will be buried next to her at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger remembers his hero

    Arnold Schwarzenegger has referred to the late Mikhail Gorbachev as “one of my heroes.”

    In a series of tweets, the actor and former Governor of California said: “Mikhail Gorbachev was one of my heroes, and it was an honor and a joy to meet him. I was unbelievably lucky to call him a friend.”

    He added: “He belongs to history now, and I know he’s overjoyed to be reunited with his dear Raisa, once again living one of the greatest love stories of all time.

    “When you see a chance to make an impact, to leave a better world for the next generation, I hope you’ll think about Mikhail Gorbachev and ask yourself, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ I know I will.”

  • Biden’s remarks, concluded

    President Biden wrote: “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.

    “The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people. 

    “Even years after leaving office, he was still deeply engaged.

    “When Mr. Gorbachev visited the White House in 2009, he and I spoke for a long time about our countries’ ongoing work to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

    “It was easy to see why so many worldwide held him in such high esteem. 

    The statement concludes by saying, “We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and to people everywhere who benefited from his belief in a better world.”

  • Biden’s remarks, continued

    President Biden continued: “As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race.

    “After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms.

    “He believed in glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring – not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.”

  • Biden’s remarks

    President Biden released a press statement about Gorbachev’s death, calling the leader a “man of remarkable vision.”

    “When he came to power, the Cold War had gone on for nearly 40 years and communism for even longer, with devastating consequences. 

    “Few high-level Soviet officials had the courage to admit that things needed to change.

    “As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I saw him do that and more.”

  • Nobel Peace Prize winner

    Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

    “I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev said in a 1992 interview shortly after he left office.

    “I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination,” he said.

    In his memoirs, he said he had long been frustrated that in a country with immense natural resources, tens of millions were living in poverty.

    “Our society was stifled in the grip of a bureaucratic command system,” Gorbachev wrote. “Doomed to serve ideology and bear the heavy burden of the arms race, it was strained to the utmost.”

  • Interviewer mourns

    Broadcaster and author John Simpson tweeted that he is “really sad” that the “decent” and “well-intentioned” former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has died.

    John, who interviewed Gorbachev, wrote: “Really sad that Mikhail Gorbachev has died: a decent, well-intentioned, principled man who tried to rescue the unrescuable.”

    He added: “In private he was charming and surprisingly amusing. It wasn’t his fault things went so wrong.”

  • UK Ambassador’s sadness

    Sir Tony Brenton, former UK Ambassador to Russia from 2004–2008, has responded to Mikhail Gorbachev’s death, saying: “As I look back on history over my lifetime, undoubtedly the figure who has made the biggest difference to the state of the world today is Gorbachev.

    “By introducing his reforms to the Soviet Union, by accident he destroyed communism and ended the Cold War.

    “He was a very civilized man. I saw quite a lot of him when I was ambassador. He was a very avuncular father figure, who Russia would rather forget about him, and he was not the guy who impose Stalinist-type repression as some of his predecessors had been.

    “He ended up as being rather sad about the way things in Russia were going.

    “The reason for that sadness was his hope to integrate Russia into this broader European community of nations and that hope had visibly failed by the time I was ambassador.”

  • Who is Gorbachev survived by?

    Mikhail Gorbachev is survived by his daughter, Irina, and two granddaughters.

  • ‘Forever be remembered’

    Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Gorbachev was “one of the great figures” of last century” who will “forever be remembered”.

    In a tweet, the leader of the Labour Party said: “One of the great figures of the 20th Century, Mikhail Gorbachev’s pursuit of reform forged a path for diplomacy over conflict.

    “He will forever be remembered as the last leader of the Soviet Union who had the courage and conviction to end the Cold War.”

  • Boris Johnson speaks out

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he is “saddened” to hear that Mr Gorbachev has died, in a “time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine”.

    In a Twitter post, he said: “I’m saddened to hear of the death of Gorbachev.

    “I always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing 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.”

  • Leader was ‘upset’ about Ukraine invasion

    Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov revealed that Mikhail Gorbachev was “upset” his life’s work was being undone by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

    He said: “I can tell you that he is upset. Of course, he understands that…this was his life’s work.

    “Freedoms were brought by Gorbachev. Everyone forgot who gave freedom to the Russian Orthodox Church? Who was it? Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.

    “The freedom of press, the first media law, who brought it? Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Private property? Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.’

    “So what would [Gorbachev] be able to say now?”

  • Gorbachev in recent years

    After visiting Mikhail Gorbachev in the hospital on June 30, liberal economist Ruslan Grinberg told news outlet Zvezda: “He gave us all freedom – but we don’t know what to do with it.”

    In recent years, Gorbachev warned the world was in “colossal danger,” saying that all nuclear weapons must be destroyed to save the planet and mankind.

    The ex-Soviet president said tension between Russia and the West will remain fraught as long as weapons of mass destruction exist.

    In an interview with the BBC, he said: “As long as weapon of mass destruction exist, primarily nuclear weapons, the danger is colossal.

    “All nations should declare that nuclear weapons must be destroyed. This is to save ourselves and the planet.”

  • How did Gorbachev die?

    The Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow said that Gorbachev died ‘after a serious and long illness’, according to the Interfax, TASS and RIA Novosti news agencies.

    The former Soviet leader had been suffering from long-term kidney problems and was on dialysis, according to reports.

    During the Covid pandemic, he was reportedly confined to a clinic.

  • Famous Pizza Hut commercial

    The former leader was credited with allowing companies like Pizza Hut to enter Russia.

    This lead to a famous commercial for the company which he starred in.

  • He refrained from using force

    When pro-democracy protests swept the Soviet Union in 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev chose not to use force.

    This was unlike previous leaders, who sent tanks to Hungary in 1956 and then to Czechoslovakia in 1968.

  • What Mikhail was most known for

    The former President of the Soviet Union was known for ending the Cold War nonviolently.

    The Cold War was a period of political hostility between the US and the Soviet Union.

    The period was from 1947 until 1991.

  • The Soviet Union explained

    The USSR was a socialist state formed after the Russian revolution in 1917.

    It was initially a confederation of the states of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and modern-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, but eventually grew to include a total of 15 countries.

  • Biden’s remarks, concluded

    President Biden wrote: “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.

    “The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people. 

    “Even years after leaving office, he was still deeply engaged.

    “When Mr. Gorbachev visited the White House in 2009, he and I spoke for a long time about our countries’ ongoing work to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

    “It was easy to see why so many worldwide held him in such high esteem. 

    The statement concludes by saying, “We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and to people everywhere who benefited from his belief in a better world.”

  • Biden’s remarks, continued

    President Biden continued: “As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race.

    “After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms.

    “He believed in glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring – not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.”

  • Biden’s remarks

    President Biden released a press statement about Gorbachev’s death, calling the leader a “man of remarkable vision.”

    “When he came to power, the Cold War had gone on for nearly 40 years and communism for even longer, with devastating consequences. 

    “Few high-level Soviet officials had the courage to admit that things needed to change.

    “As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I saw him do that and more.”

  • Mikhail’s burial place

    Towards the end of his life, the former Soviet leader suffered long-term kidney problems and was on dialysis.

    During the Covid pandemic, he was reportedly confined to a clinic.

    Gorbachev’s wife Raisa, the former Soviet first lady, died in 1999.

    He will be buried next to her at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery.

  • Putin sends condolences

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news agency that Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed “his deepest condolences” on Mikhail Gorbachev’s death.

    “Tomorrow he will send a telegram of condolences to his family and friends.”

  • Nobel Peace Prize winner

    Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

    “I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev said in a 1992 interview shortly after he left office.

    “I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination,” he said.

    In his memoirs, he said he had long been frustrated that in a country with immense natural resources, tens of millions were living in poverty.

    “Our society was stifled in the grip of a bureaucratic command system,” Gorbachev wrote. “Doomed to serve ideology and bear the heavy burden of the arms race, it was strained to the utmost.”

  • Interviewer mourns

    Broadcaster and author John Simpson tweeted that he is “really sad” that the “decent” and “well-intentioned” former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has died.

    John, who interviewed Gorbachev, wrote: “Really sad that Mikhail Gorbachev has died: a decent, well-intentioned, principled man who tried to rescue the unrescuable.”

    He added: “In private he was charming and surprisingly amusing. It wasn’t his fault things went so wrong.”



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