Gorbachev a historic statesman but was too romantic about West - Kremlin

Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed his “deep sympathies” after Mikhail Gorbachev's death.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Mr Putin had offered deep condolences over the former Soviet leader’s death and would send an official telegram to his family in the morning.

Mr Peskov said Mr Gorbachev was a statesman who would go down in history, according to Reuters news agency.

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But the man who brought an end to the Soviet Union and had famously good relationships with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had a misplaced “romanticism” about the possibility of cordial relations with the West, Mr Peskov added.

File photo taken on December 21, 2004 Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (L) prior to a joint press conference of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Putin at Gottorf castle in Schleswig. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on August 31, 2022 that Mikhail Gorbachev, made a 'huge impact' on world history. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
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He said: "The bloodthirstiness of our opponents showed itself."

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Mikhail Gorbachev dead: Former Soviet leader reported to have died at 91
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Mr Putin and Mr Gorbachev have not always seen eye to eye – but tributes across Russia have been paid.

In a ten-minute tribute, news channel Rossiya 24 noted Mr Gorbachev's popularity abroad, but said that inside the country his policies provoked "increasingly more questions".

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The bulletin also presented Mr Gorbachev as having been in favour of Russia's actions in Ukraine, showing a clip from a 2014 interview saying that apart from the western part of the country, Ukraine was populated by "people who are very close to us".

"He has always been considered an extremely controversial figure in modern Russian history," said Channel One.

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Mr Gorbachev had defended Mr Putin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. His statements led Ukraine to ban him from entering the country for five years.

The Russian nation that emerged from its Soviet past shrank in size as 15 new nations were created.

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In the final days of the Soviet Union, the economic decline accelerated into a steep skid. Hyper-inflation robbed most older people of their life's savings, factories shut down and bread lines formed.

Popular hatred for Mr Gorbachev and his wife Raisa grew, but the couple won sympathy in the summer of 1999 when it was revealed Mrs Gorbachev was dying of leukaemia.

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Mr Gorbachev has veered between criticism and mild praise for Mr Putin, who has been critiqued for backtracking on the democratic achievements of the Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin eras.

He said Mr Putin had done much to restore stability and prestige to Russia after the tumultuous decade following the Soviet collapse, but he protested over growing limitations on media freedom, and in 2006 bought one of Russia's last investigative newspapers, Novaya Gazeta, with a businessman associate.

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Mr Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War, but although widely feted abroad, he was a pariah at home. It is unclear how news of his death will be received in Russia amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

He ventured into other new areas in his 1970s, winning awards and kudos around the world. He won a Grammy in 2004 along with former US President Bill Clinton and Italian actress Sophia Loren for their recording of Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf, and the United Nations named him a Champion of the Earth in 2006 for his environmental advocacy.

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Mr Gorbachev had a daughter Irina and two granddaughters.

The official news agency Tass reported Mr Gorbachev will be buried at Moscow's Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife.

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