Russia's Putin praises Gorbachev's historic role in 75th birthday greeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised the historic role of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in a message congratulating him on his 75th birthday.

Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War and launched democratic reforms that broke the repressive Soviet regime, celebrated his birthday Thursday evening at a Moscow restaurant.

"You belong to the category of politicians who had an effect on modern world history," Putin said in a statement released by his office.

"Your name is associated with the switch to a policy of openess in the international sphere. And of course, the changes that enabled our country to make a decisive step toward democratic reforms."

While praised worldwide, Gorbachev has been reviled at home, where a majority of Russians hold him responsible for the Soviet breakup and subsequent economic chaos that impoverished millions. He won a mere 1 percent of the vote in the 1996 presidential election.

Russia media said that among guests that were invited and could not attend were former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who famously said that Gorbachev was "a man we can do business with" ex-U.S President George Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, reports AP.


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