Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union and a reformer who helped end the Cold War and lead his country from communism to capitalism, died Tuesday at 91

The hospital where he died said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness.

Gorbachev was the first and last president of the Soviet Union. He became the general secretary of the communist party in 1985, aged just 53

Many Russians blame him and his reformist policies for the country's demise.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told RIA Novosti

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen praised him as a "trusted and respected leader" who "opened the way for a free Europe".

Mr Gorbachev, who took over in 1985, is best known for opening up the USSR and for bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end

He was a Russian and Soviet politician. The eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, he was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991

He was also the country's head of state from 1988 until 1991, serving as the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989

Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan hold their first summit in Geneva