Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had “a huge impact on the course of world history” which found its “own solutions to pressing problems”, Vladimir Putin said.
Sending condolences to his family, russian president said in a statement: “He led our country through a period of complex and dramatic change, large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges.
“He deeply understood that reforms were needed, he endeavored to offer his own solutions to pressing problems.”
Putin offers ‘heartfelt condolences’ as world mourns ‘man who changed history’ – latest updates
Mr Putin also noted the “great humanitarian, charitable, educational activities” carried out by Mr Gorbachev during the last years.
One of the most important figures of the 20th century, he was known for ending the Cold War without bloodshed, but failed to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
A Kremlin spokesman separately described Mr Gorbachev as “a unique person… who will always remain in the history of our country”.
However, he added that his “romanticism” about the West was unjustified.
The death of Mr. Gorbachev was announced on Tuesday after a long illness. The 91-year-old was undergoing treatment at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow.
A ‘rare leader’ who helped create a ‘safer world’
His death prompted tributes from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Biden hailed Mr Gorbachev’s achievements in believing “in a better world” and drastically reducing the potential for a Third World War.
“As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce the nuclear arsenals of our two countries, much to the relief of the peoples of the world who pray for an end to the nuclear arms race”, a- he said in a statement. statement.
“These are 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 has been a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”
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What did Gorbachev achieve?
Mr Gorbachev has forged arms reduction agreements with the United States and partnerships with Western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that has divided Europe since World War II.
It led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. His efforts won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
When Mr. Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, he set out to revitalize the communist system and shape a new union based on a more equal partnership between the 15 republics of the USSR.
But within six years, communism and the Union collapsed.
He attempted political and economic reforms simultaneously and on an overambitious scale, unleashing forces he could not control.
As pro-democracy protests swept through Communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force – unlike his predecessors who deployed tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
However, the protests fueled aspirations for republican autonomy, and the last Soviet leader did not anticipate the strength of nationalist sentiment.
Prime Minister contrasts with ‘Putin’s aggression’
In his tribute to Mr Gorbachev, Boris Johnson said he was “saddened to learn” of his death.
In a tweet, he wrote that he “has always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion.”
“At a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example for all of us,” he said.
But many Russians never forgave Mr. Gorbachev for the turmoil his reforms unleashed, as they felt the subsequent fall in their living standards was too high a price for democracy to pay.
Later in life he said he did not consider using all-out force to try to hold the USSR together because he feared chaos in a nuclear nation.
“The country was loaded to the brim with weapons. And that would have immediately plunged the country into a civil war,” he said.