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Nobel peace prize winner and former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev has died. He was 91.

Gorbachev, who died at a central hospital in Moscow after a serious and long illness, was often regarded as one of the most influential leaders of his time.

His plans and changes set in motion transformed Russia and led to Eastern Europe being set free from Soviet rule.

Gorbachev was in power between 1985 and 1991. During this time he received the praise of many world leaders and even his own people, although his decisions also led to many of his own people turning against him as they believed it meant the end of their country as a global superpower.

The former leader struggled with his health during the last few decades, spending a lot of time in hospital.

News24 reports that Gorbachev was regarded fondly in the West, where he was affectionately referred to as Gorby and best known for defusing US-Soviet nuclear tensions in the 1980s, as well as bringing Eastern Europe out from behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1991 he was awarded the Nobel peace prize for successfully negotiating a historic nuclear arms pact with American president Ronald Reagan.

He was also praised after he refused to get the Soviet army involved when the Berlin wall fell. This was seen as a landmark decision in preserving Cold War peace.

Image credit: NBC News

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