Past and Present Russian Leaders Mourn Mandela

MOSCOW, December 6 (RIA Novosti) – Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin joined other world figures Friday in hailing the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, who died Thursday night.

Mandela, a 95-year-old Nobel Prize winner and former political prisoner, emerged from jail in South Africa after 27 years to help his country end apartheid rule in 1990.

“Nothing and no pressure could overcome this man: neither jails, victimization nor political struggle. He was devoted to the idea of freedom and ended the last apartheid on the Earth,” Gorbachev, who became a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1990, told Dozhd television.

Gorbachev said he was a friend of Mandela, who backed perestroika, the series of reforms that Gorbachev carried out in the late 1980s before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“He told me: ‘if there had been no perestroika, you would have gone under.’ He could appreciate the achievements of other peoples…” Gorbachev said.

Putin sent his condolences to South African President Jacob Zuma over the anti-apartheid leader’s death, saying that “having endured difficult sufferings, Mandela remained faithful to the ideals of humanism and justice until the end of his life.”

Mandela was hospitalized in June with a reported recurring lung infection. In November, the South African government announced that Mandela was in a critical state.

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