Photos: Mikhail Gorbachev dies; Soviet Union’s last leader helped end Cold War

A man in a light blue shirt and khaki jacket speaks as he is surrounded by other people near a plane
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks to a Soviet TV newsman at Vnukovo airport outside Moscow, shortly after arriving from Crimea after a three-day coup by Communist Party hard-liners failed in Russia. When a group of top officials ousted Gorbachev 30 years ago and deployed tanks in Moscow, the world held its breath, fearing a rollback of liberal reforms and a return to the Cold War confrontation. But the August 1991 coup collapsed in just three days, precipitating the breakup of the Soviet Union that plotters said they were trying to prevent.
(Associated Press)

Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader whose vision of humane communism liberated millions, bridled the global arms race and knocked down the walls dividing East and West, has died, according to Russian news agencies.

Gorbachev, who had been in declining health due to acute diabetes, was 91 and had been undergoing treatment at a hospital, according the agencies.

One of the most influential politicians of the 20th century, Gorbachev used his six years as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to systematically dismantle the machinery of repression.

People stand atop a personnel carrier on a street, surrounded by crowds of people in front of a building
People try to block a personnel carrier from advancing near Red Square in Moscow on Aug. 19, 1991.

(Boris Yurchenko / Associated Press)
A man, second from right, in a gray suit and red tie makes a V sign as he looks to the masses gathered below him
Russian President Boris Yeltsin makes a V-for-victory sign to thousands of Muscovites during a rally on Aug. 22, 1991, in front of the Russian Federation building to celebrate the failure of the coup against Mikhail S. Gorbachev. With him is his top associate Gennady Burbulis, right.
(Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press)
A large monument with six pillars is the backdrop for a man in a suit and tie speaking in front of a row of seated people
President Reagan makes his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987.
(Roberto Pfeil / Associated Press )
A man wearing a suit and tie and glasses holds up papers before microphones as another man, right, points to them
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev holds notes given to him by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, right, during a special session of the Russian Federation Parliament in Moscow on Aug. 23, 1991.
(Boris Yurchenko / Associated Press)
Three men in dark suits stand near a blue railing, with two tall buildings as a backdrop
After a meeting in New York, President Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pose with the World Trade Center in the background.
(Bettmann Archive)
A man in a dark overcoat smiles as he speaks before microphones. With him is a smiling woman, right.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher listens to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev speak at Downing Street after their talks in London on April 6, 1989.
(Associated Press )
A man with gray hair, wearing a suit and tie and glasses, speaks to a younger man, right, also in a suit and tie
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, talks with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the start of a news conference in Schleswig, Germany, on Dec. 21, 2004.
(Heribert Proepper / Associated Press)
A man in suit and tie, hands clasped while seated, is flanked by other solemn-looking men and women
Mikhail Gorbachev, center, and other Politburo members attend the International Women’ s Day Gala at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on March 7, 1985.
(Boris Yurchenko / Associated Press)
One man in suit and tie and glasses, left, and another man, also in suit and tie, smile as they prepare to sign documents
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, and President Reagan during the signing of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, which bans the use of such missiles, in Washington on Dec. 8, 1987.
(Bettmann Archive)
A man in a gray overcoat and hat, his hands apart with palms up, speaks to a crowd surrounding him
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks to Lithuanians at the Lenin monument in Vilnius on Jan. 11, 1990.
(Victor Yurchenko / Associated Press)
Two men in cowboy hats, one with his arms crossed and smiling on the right, share a conversation
Former President Reagan and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo north of Santa Barbara on May 2, 1992.
(Bob Galbraith / Associated Press)