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Mikhail Gorbachev, last Soviet leader, dies at 91

Mikhail Gorbachev, who changed the course of history by triggering the demise of the Soviet Union and was one of the great figures of the 20th centry, has died in Moscow aged 91.

His death was announced on Tuesday by Russian news agencies, who said Gorbachev had died at a central hospital in Moscow “after a serious and long illness”.

achievements to buttress Russia’s claim to greatness and his own prestige.

As the USSR collapsed, Gorbachev was superseded by the younger Boris Yeltsin, who became post-Soviet Russia’s first president.

From then on, Gorbachev was relegated to the sidelines, devoting himself to educational and humanitarian projects.

He made a disastrous attempt to return to politics and ran for president in 1996 but received just 0.5 percent of the vote.

Over the years he saw many of his major achievements rolled back by Putin.

– Supporter of free press –

An early supporter of Russia’s leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, founded in 1993, he donated part of his Nobel winnings to help it buy its first computers.

But the newspaper, like Russian independent media across the board, came under increasing pressure during Putin’s two-decade reign.

Novaya Gazeta, whose chief editor Dmitry Muratov last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, suspended publication in late March after Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Gorbachev himself made no public statements about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, though his foundation called for “an early cessation hostilities and immediate start of peace negotiations”.

Uniquely among Soviet leaders, Gorbachev made no secret of his warm and supportive relationship with his wife Raisa, an elegant woman who often appeared in public with him and whose premature death from cancer was a devastating blow.

A source close to the Gorbachev family told news agency TASS that he would be buried next to Raisa at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetary, the resting place of many other famous Russian figures, including Yeltsin.