Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union, has been admitted to the Kremlin hospital in Moscow for tests, amid growing concern over his health.
The 82-year-old complained of health problems at a lecture in March, and a month later illness prevented him from attending the funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His spokesman described the tests as “routine” but gave no other details.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 25 December 1991, Mr Gorbachev – whose policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost attempted to reform the Communist system from within – has run a foundation for political, social and economic studies.
But he has always been far more popular abroad than in his own country. Mrs Thatcher famously described him as a “man we can do business with”, and in the West, he is generally regarded as a brave reformer who signed major arms agreements with the US and hastened the end of the Cold War.
When he took power in March 1985, Russians too regarded him as a breath of youthful fresh air, in contrast to his aged and infirm predecessors. Today, however, Mr Gorbachev is mainly remembered for the economic chaos that marked the later stages of his six years in office, and widely blamed for the break-up of the country and Russia’s loss of superpower status.
In a poll in May, Russians rated him as the country’s worst leader of the 20th century – the most successful was Leonid Brezhnev, leader from 1964 to 1982.