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31 August 2022

Western leaders praise Mikhail Gorbachev in the wake of his death

The last leader of the Soviet Union, credited with ending the Cold War, died at the age of 91 in Moscow.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and the man who brought the Cold War to an end, died in Moscow on 30 August after a “difficult and protracted illness”.

Gorbachev’s decision not to use force to prevent the toppling of the Berlin Wall is credited with averting a third world war. The former president’s reforms – including “glasnost”, which extended freedom of speech and of the press, and “perestroika”, which decentralised decision-making – led to the end of the USSR and the breakaway of some eastern bloc states.

Many have shared tributes to the 91-year-old Nobel Peace Prize-winner, including Joe Biden, who called him a man of “remarkable vision”.

“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 US president said. “The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”

[See also: Gorbachev’s magnificent failure]

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The former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger hailed Gorbachev’s “great service to humanity” and said the people of Europe owe him a “great deal of gratitude”.

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Gorbachev lived long enough to see Russia return to war under Vladimir Putin. The conflict in Ukraine entered a new phase this week as Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces pushed back Russian troops in Kherson.

Liz Truss, who is highly likely to be prime minister this time next week, tweeted that Gorbachev was “a remarkable statesman who made a profound contribution to global security and stability, working with Western leaders to end the Cold War. Now more than ever, this legacy of cooperation and peace must prevail.”

Meanwhile, how Britain will cope with the energy crisis – caused in part by the Russia-Ukraine war – continues to be the focus of the Tory leadership contest, with reports suggesting that Truss is considering the “nuclear option” of cutting VAT from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak will take part in the final hustings of the race in London on 31 August. The winner will be announced on 5 September.

[See also: Mikhail Gorbachev tried to unite the impossible – his failure was heroic]

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