UK & World News
Gorbachev Forced To Deny Rumours He Is Dead
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has been forced to deny rumours of his own death after hackers sent false alerts from the Twitter accounts of a state news agency.
"I'm alive and well," Mr Gorbachev said last night, using a blanked-out Russian expletive to describe those behind the rumours, who he said were "hoping in vain".
His denials came after two Twitter accounts belonging to the RIA Novosti state news agency posted reports of the death of Mr Gorbachev, the first and last president of the USSR.
The agency said they had been subject to a cyberattack by hackers and that the tweets were spotted and deleted within five minutes of being posted.
They said they had asked Russia's security service, the FSB, to investigate, and apologised directly to Mr Gorbachev.
"Dear Mikhail Sergeyevich," a RIA Novosti spokesperson said.
"We are endlessly sorry that hackers used your name in another campaign to discredit the media and we ask you to accept our deepest apologies."
The messages were not the most convincing - one said: "Mikhail Gorbachev has died in the Shoko caf?n Yekaterinburg."
Another said that he had died whilst talking to opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman, who is standing for mayor of the Siberian city.
Mr Gorbachev has suffered health problems lately. In June, his spokesman said that he had been treated in hospital in connection with his diabetes, while in April he was not well enough to travel to Margaret Thatcher's funeral in London.
But the 82-year-old has continued to take a keen interest in Russian politics, issuing statements criticising President Vladimir Putin's rule and condemning the conviction of feminist punk band Pussy Riot and opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In a statement on the website of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper he co-owns, Mr Gorbachev said he suspected the hackers were "carrying out the orders of some authorities" and that he had asked the paper to investigate who was behind it.