'Played crucial role to bring down Iron Curtain': Tributes for Mikhail Gorbachev
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the last Soviet leader as a unique leader who changed the world for the better.
As one of the tallest leaders of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, died on Wednesday, several global leaders paid tributes to the 91-year-old who produced extraordinary reforms that led to the end of the Cold War.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen hailed the Soviet Union's last leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a "trusted and respected leader". "He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe. This legacy is one we will not forget," she wrote on Twitter.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, , who shared a difficult relationship with Gorbachev, also expressed ‘his deepest condolences’ on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, a Kremlin spokesman told the Interfax news agency. "President Putin expresses his deep sympathies over the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. In the morning he will send a telegram of condolences to his family and friends," spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying. Gorbachev presided over the disintegration of the USSR. He was referred to as a ‘gravedigger of the communist Soviet Union’ by those who saw the breakup of the USSR as a tragedy - including Putin.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the last Soviet leader as a unique leader who changed the world for the better. Gorbachev was "a one-of-a kind statesman who changed the course of history. He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War," Guterres said in a statement.
The UK’s outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he is “saddened” to hear that Mikhail Gorbachev has died, in a “time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine”.
French President Emmanuel Macron described Gorbachev as a "man of peace" on Twitter, saying he "opened a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history".
Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor turned politician and former governor of California, posted a picture of himself with the late Soviet leader and ‘one of his heroes’ on the micro blogging site and wrote: “There’s an old saying - Never meet your heroes. I think that’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard. 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. All of us can learn from his fantastic life."
Gorbachev was regarded fondly in the West for defusing the US-Soviet nuclear tensions in the 1980s as well as bringing Eastern Europe out from behind the Iron Curtain, AFP reported. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for negotiating a historic nuclear arms pact with US leader Ronald Reagan and his decision to withhold the Soviet army when the Berlin Wall fell a year earlier was seen as key to preserving Cold War peace.
The first Russian leader to live past the age of 90, he was congratulated by world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and former German chancellor Angela Merkel on his 90th birthday.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)