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Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev remembered as effective leader, peacemaker

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U.S. President Ronald Reagan welcomes Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to the White House in Washington on December 10, 1987. The two met many times and had respect for one another. UPI Photo/File
U.S. President Ronald Reagan welcomes Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to the White House in Washington on December 10, 1987. The two met many times and had respect for one another. UPI Photo/File | License Photo

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Many leaders around the world paid tribute to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Wednesday after he died at the age of 91.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among those who spoke highly of Gorbachev, who is perhaps most remembered for being President Ronald Reagan's counterpart in the final years of the Soviet Union.

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Gorbachev died in a Moscow hospital late on Tuesday.

"As leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries' nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race," Biden said in a statement. "After decades of brutal political repression, he embraced democratic reforms. He believed in glasnost and perestroika -- openness and restructuring -- not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.

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"Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of remarkable vision."

The result of that vision, Biden added, was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.

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Putin, who many experts believe would like to return Russia to the old Soviet system, praised Gorbachev for his leadership.

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"He led our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes, large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges," he said in a statement. "He deeply understood that reforms were necessary, he strove to offer his own solutions to urgent problems."

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet during their first summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 21, 1985. File Photo by Larry Rubenstein/UPI

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the former Russian leader was a rarity in government.

"Gorbachev was a one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history," he said in a tweet. "The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace."

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"Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. "He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe."

French President Emmanuel Macron said Gorbachev was "a man of peace whose choices opened a path of freedom for Russians," and partly responsible for changing Europe's common history.

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The government of China said the former Soviet leader made "active contributions toward the normalization of relations," according to The Washington Post.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was saddened to hear of Gorbachev's death -- particularly during a time of "Putin's aggression in Ukraine."

"His tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all," he wrote.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz said his country owes Gorbachev a debt for clearing a path to reunification.

"We Germans owe him an immense debt - because his policy of perestroika laid the foundation for overcoming the Cold War, clearing away border lines and reuniting Europe and Germany," Scholz said according to The New York Times.

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