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Gorbachev praises 'great president'

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has praised Ronald Reagan, saying he was upset to hear about the former U.S. president's death, according to a report from Russia's Interfax news agency.

Interfax issued the following report:

The most important deed done by former President Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of the Cold War, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said on Echo Moskvy radio on Saturday.

The news about Reagan's death "upset me very much," Gorbachev said.

"Reagan and I were involved in very important events concerning the relationship between our countries and the situation in the world," Gorbachev said.

"I deem Ronald Reagan a great president, with whom the Soviet leadership was able to launch a very difficult but important dialogue," he said.

"Reagan was a statesman who, despite all disagreements that existed between our countries at the time, displayed foresight and determination to meet our proposals halfway and change our relations for the better, stop the nuclear race, start scrapping nuclear weapons, and arrange normal relations between our countries," Gorbachev said.

"I do not know how other statesmen would have acted at that moment, because the situation was too difficult. Reagan, whom many considered extremely rightist, dared to make these steps, and this is his most important deed," he said.

In tributes to Reagan, former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher said Reagan "had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired."

During his first term in office, Reagan ordered a massive defense buildup to intimidate the Soviet Union, an expansion that required large-scale Pentagon spending.

During his second term, the risk of standing toe to toe with Moscow paid off. He and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom he met several times, signed a treaty in 1987 to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

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