Mikhail Gorbachev, who steered Soviet breakup, dead at 91

Mikhail Gorbachev, who as the last leader of the Soviet Union waged a losing battle to salvage a crumbling empire but produced extraordinary reforms that led to the end of the Cold War, has died at 91.

The Central Clinical Hospital said in a statement that Gorbachev died Tuesday after a long illness. No other details were given. Though in power less than seven years, Gorbachev unleashed a breathtaking series of changes.

But they quickly overtook him and resulted in the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the freeing of Eastern European nations from Russian domination and the end of decades of East-West nuclear confrontation.

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