Reactions to the death of last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

Former Soviet Union President Gorbachev speaks on a panel after the screening of "Cold War" at the Paley Center for Media in New York
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(Reuters) - Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War without bloodshed but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at the age of 91, hospital officials in Moscow said.

Below are contrasting reactions from leaders and other high-profile figures outside and inside Russia:

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN

"Gorbachev was a politician and statesman who had a huge impact on the course of world history. He led our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes and large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges...

"(He) strove to offer his solutions to urgent problems."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Gorbachev's hopes for a "romance" with the West were unjustified, adding: "The honeymoon did not work out and the bloodthirstiness of our opponents showed itself. It's good that we realised this in time and understood it."

OUTSIDE RUSSIA

U.S. PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

"Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision ... As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries' nuclear arsenals ... After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms.

"The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people."

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES

Gorbachev was "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."

EX-GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

"Mikhail Gorbachev wrote world history. He exemplified how a single statesman can change the world for the better.

"I can still feel the fear I had, like many people in the German Democratic Republic, in 1989, wondering whether tanks would roll again... But... no tanks rolled, no shots were fired...

"The world has lost a one-of-a-kind world leader. May the memory of his historic achievement make it possible to take a small pause, especially in these terrible weeks and months of Russia's war against Ukraine."

GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ

"We won't forget that perestroika (restructuring) had made it possible for Russia to be able to try to undertake the establishment of a democracy, that democracy and freedom were possible in Europe, that Germany could be unified, that the Iron Curtain disappeared."

"He died at a time when not only democracy in Russia has failed ... but also when Russia and Russian President Putin have dug new graves in Europe and began a terrible war."

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANNALENA BAERBOCK:

"In defining moments of our history, Mikhail Gorbachev chose the path of peace and understanding and thereby contributed to the end of the Cold War and Germany's reunification. Germany will be eternally grateful for this."

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

Gorbachev was "a man of peace whose choices opened up a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history".

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER MARIO DRAGHI

"Mikhail Gorbachev ...put an end to the experience of the Soviet Union with courage and determination... His desire for peace and his opposition to an imperialist vision of Russia earned him the Nobel Prize. These messages are as relevant as ever in the face of the tragedy of the invasion of Ukraine."

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT URSULA VON DER LEYEN

"Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe ... This legacy is one we will not forget."

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG

"Mikhail Gorbachev’s historic reforms led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, helped end the Cold War and opened the possibility of a partnership between Russia and NATO. His vision of a better world remains an example."

THE REAGAN FOUNDATION AND INSTITUTE

"The Reagan Foundation and Institute mourns the loss of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who once was a political adversary of Ronald Reagan's who ended up becoming a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Gorbachev family and the people of Russia."

FRIEDRICH MERZ, CHAIRMAN OF LATE GORBACHEV-ERA GERMAN CHANCELLOR HELMUT KOHL'S CDU PARTY

"Without Mikhail Gorbachev, German unity in freedom would not have been possible. The CDU mourns a statesman whom Germany could trust, and who trusted us."

FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE

"He was a man who tried to deliver a better life for his people. His life was consequential because, without him and his courage, it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON

"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."

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER ZBIGNIEW RAU

"He increased the scope of freedom of the enslaved peoples of the Soviet Union in an unprecedented way, giving them hope for a more dignified life."

LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS:

"Lithuanians will not glorify Gorbachev. We will never forget ...that his army murdered civilians to prolong his regime's occupation of our country.

"His soldiers fired on our unarmed protestors and crushed them under his tanks. That is how we will remember him."

OTHER REACTIONS FROM INSIDE RUSSIA

SERGEI NARYSHKIN, HEAD OF RUSSIA'S FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY:

"It fell to Gorbachev to lead the country in a very difficult period, to face many external and internal challenges, for which an adequate response was not found."

JAILED KREMLIN CRITIC ALEXEI NAVALNY (in a tweet issued by his lawyers):

Gorbachev "remained one of the very few who did not use power and opportunities for personal gain and enrichment.

"He stepped down peacefully and voluntarily, respecting the will of his constituents. This alone is a great feat by the standards of the former USSR."

LYUBOV SOBOL, ALLY OF NAVALNY

"Some write that he gave hope, others curse him for the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would have collapsed anyway. And the role of Gorbachev in history in Russia will still be appreciated."

POPULIST RUSSIA TABLOID KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA

It acknowledged that Gorbachev's critics at home would seek to undo his legacy, adding: "But they won't be able to. Mikhail Sergeyevich has done too much. He changed the world too irreversibly for his ideological opponents."

(Compiled by Reuters bureaus; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Robert Birsel and John Stonestreet)