‘The world has lost a towering leader’: Global tributes paid to Mikhail Gorbachev

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the “courage and integrity” of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mr Gorbachev’s death at the age of 91 has inspired an outpouring of tributes from world leaders.

Many made reference to the timing of his death during the worst period of relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

In a Twitter post, Mr Johnson said he was “saddened” by the news, at a “time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine”.

“I’m saddened to hear of the death of Gorbachev,” Mr Johnson said. “I always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion.

“In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Gorbachev was “one of the great figures” of last century who will “forever be remembered”.

In a tweet, he said: “One of the great figures of the 20th Century, Mikhail Gorbachev’s pursuit of reform forged a path for diplomacy over conflict.

“He will forever be remembered as the last leader of the Soviet Union who had the courage and conviction to end the Cold War.”

US president Joe Biden called the former Soviet a leader “with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it”.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said Gorbachev “performed great services” but was “not able to implement all of his visions”, telling BBC’s Newsnight: “The people of eastern Europe and the German people, and in the end the Russian people, owe him a great debt of gratitude for the inspiration, for the courage in coming forward with these ideas of freedom.”

Former US Secretary of State James A Baker III, who dealt regularly with Gorbachev for years on issues like the Berlin Wall and NATO, called the former Soviet leader a “giant.”

“History will remember Mikhail Gorbachev as a giant who steered his great nation towards democracy,” Mr Baker said.

French President Emmanuel Macron described Gorbachev as “a man of peace whose choices opened up a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history”.

Germany’s Olaf Scholz praised Gorbachev for paving the way for his country’s reunification.

“We will not forget that perestroika made it possible to try to establish democracy in Russia and that democracy and freedom became possible in Europe, that Germany could be united and the Iron Curtain disappeared,”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called him “a trusted and respected leader”.

“He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “It opened the way for a free Europe. This legacy is one we will not forget.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres described Gorbachev as a “one-of-a-kind statesmen”.

He said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mikhail Gorbachev, 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.

“The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida noted Gorbachev’s important role in the reduction of nuclear weapons held by the Soviet Union and United States, saying he had made “great achievements.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog called him “one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary figures. He was a brave and visionary leader, who shaped our world in ways previously thought unimaginable”.

Gorbachev died on Tuesday “after a serious and long illness” in a Moscow hospital.