Photos: Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union | Political news

The passing of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and for many the man who restored democracy to then communist-ruled European nations, was mourned on Wednesday as the loss of a rare leader who changed the world and for a time gave hope for peace among the superpowers.

Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91 after a long illness, won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War.

But he was also reviled by many compatriots who blamed him for the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 and its dwindling as a superpower. The Russian nation that emerged from its Soviet past shrank in size as 15 new nations were created.

World leaders paid tribute to a man some described as a great and courageous leader.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “at a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has described Gorbachev as “a man of peace whose choices opened a path to freedom for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our common history.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called him “a unique statesman who changed the course of history” and “did more than any other individual to peacefully end the cold War”.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a tweet that “His life had consequences because without him and his courage it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted Gorbachev’s important role in reducing nuclear weapons held by the Soviet Union and the United States, saying he had made “great achievements”.

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