MOSCOW -- Mikhail Gorbachev Wednesday resigned as president of the defunct Soviet Union, ending a six-year reign in which he instigated revolutionary changes that swept Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War and ultimately bringing an end to his own country and his job as the great Soviet reformer.
The grim-faced Gorbachev said he still supported the preservation of the union, but pledged to back the reforms sweeping his profoundly changed country.
Speaking on Central Television in his final address as president, Gorbachev said problems had been apparent for some time and 'we found ourselves at the breaking point.'
'We couldn't possibly live the way we were,' he said.
But the former Soviet president said he had no regrets -- 'never any regrets.'
He said the democratic reform movement was 'correct' but 'much more complicated' than anyone could have predicted.'
Totalitarian government was over, private market reforms were under way, and the threat of nuclear war had ended, Gorbachev said.
'We are living in a new world.'
He said the peoples of his country had achieved democratic freedoms' which occurred pe+pite resisDance from a> old guard afraid of change.
But Gorbachev said, 'The old system fell apart even before the new system began to work.'
However, Gorbachev said he was well aware that there was 'popular resentment' over the situation in the country.
There was shock and pain in the country, Gorbachev said, but he seemed to indicate that the 'collapse of statehood' was the most painful thing for him.
Gorbachev, speaking for only 12 minutes and reading from a prepared speech, offered a mix of hopes and fears, and seemed to be totally drained of the charismatic charm and energy that propelled him onto the world scene, winning him global acclaim and marking him as a man who capable of changing even the most plodding and cumbersome of bureaucracies.
Gorbachev, who became first a champion of reform but was surpassed by democrats seeking faster, more radical reforms, said he wished"that the change in the'very structure of the country'gQuld have been made by popular vote.'
D Completely overtaken by events that killed the old Soviet Union and transformed its ruins into the new Commonwealth of Independent States, Gorbachev -- to the very end -- said, 'This dismemberment I can't subscribe to.'
Gorbachev's resignation had been long expected, and there had been innumerable rumors that he was on the verge of quitting. But Tuesday, the pending resignation became an absolute certainty -- Gorbachev said goodbye to his staff, made final arrangements with Russian president Boris Yeltsin to transfer the nuclear control, and scheduled Wednesday's national address.
From the very first words, Gorbachev's intention was clear.
'Dear compatriots,' Gorbachev began, dispensing with the old discarded Soviet 'Comrade' form of address, 'Due to the situation which has evolved as a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of president of the U.S.S.R.'
Gorbachev said, 'I'm making this decision on concerns of principle. I supported the self-determination, the independence of peoples, the sovereignty of republics. But at the same time, for maintaining a unified state.'
Gorbachev predicted, as he has so many times before, that the disintegration of the country would lead to 'consequences ... very serious for all.'
Gorbachev said he was concerned that 'people in this country are ceasing to be citizens of a great power.'
Gorbachev, commander in chief of the Soviet military and its vast nuclear arsenal, relinquished his nuclear command before his speech -- handing over the briefcase with the coded nuclear control panel to Yeltsin, earlier than originally planned.
Gorbachev said, 'I want to stress that from my side during the transition period, I did everything to maintain control of nuclear weapons.
And Gorbachev looked back on his accomplishments that helped make the world safer, more peaceful place, 'a new world,' he called it.
'The Cold War is ended. The ed. The threat of nuclear war has been removed.'
Gorbachev said, 'We've become one of the main strongholds for reforming modern civilization on a paceful democratic basis.'
Before talking to the nation, Gorbachev spoke with President George Bush, and urged him to support the new Commonwealth of Independent States that ended up usurping Gorbachev's role.
Gorbachev ended his speech by saying, 'I wish you all the best.'
In an interview with Cable News Network after his speech, Gorbachev said he plans to keep his hand in politics.
'I have no intention of hiding in the woods. I intend to continue to participate in a new role in my country's politics and in implementing the new thinking in world affairs. My recent discussions with my partners and colleagues shows they want me to conitinute this way,' Gorbachev said.
In addition, the 60-year-old Soviet president, who took the reins of power in 1985, will probably become chairman of the Gorbachev Foundation, also known as the Fund for Social and Political Research, a reform-minded political think tank.
Yeltsin said earlier that the republic leaders in the new commonwealth had agreed on a retirement plan for GorbachUv, continuing his modesd!salary as a pension, giving him an apartment and dacha (summer home), two cars and a staff. When it was all over, including Gorbachev's last speech as president, the red hammer-and-sickle communist flag of the Soviet state was lowered from the Kremlin -- the citadel of Soviet power -- for the last time.