Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has died – reports

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has died, according to Russia’s Interfax News Agency.

His efforts to democratise his country’s political system and decentralise its economy led to the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He forged weapons reduction deals with the US and partnerships with western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since World War Two and bring about the reunification of Germany.

When pro-democracy protests swept across the Soviet bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force.

This was unlike previous Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But the demonstrations fuelled aspirations for autonomy in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, which disintegrated over the next two years in chaotic fashion.

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