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Germany is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Concerts and exhibitions are being staged in the city and Chancellor Angela Merkel will later attend a huge open-air party at the Brandenburg Gate.
White balloons marking a stretch of the Berlin Wall will be released to symbolize its disappearance.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop people fleeing from Communist East Germany to the West.
Its fall in 1989 became a powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War.
Angela Merkel will be joined for the festivities by former Polish trade union leader Lech Walesa and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader.
White balloons marking a stretch of the Berlin Wall will be released to symbolize its disappearance
The wall stretched for 96 miles through Berlin but today only about 2 miles of it still stands.
Within a year of its collapse, Germany – divided after its defeat in World War Two – was reunited.
More than a million visitors have descended on Berlin for the weekend of festivities that will culminate at the Brandenburg Gate.
The monument itself was inaccessible during the partition of Germany and is seen as a symbol of the country’s reunification.
On November 8, people posed for photos in front of the few remaining graffiti-daubed slabs of the wall, or read information boards about life under Berlin’s 28-year division.
Others admired the art installation of almost 7,000 white balloons, pegged to the ground and winding along a 9 miles stretch of the wall’s route.
At the bustling Potsdamer Platz, which was once cut in two by the wall, a small crowd watched archive footage of East German demonstrators chanting: “We are the people.”
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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said that the world is on the brink of a new Cold War, and trust should be restored by dialogue with Russia.
At an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, Mikhail Gorbachev said the West had “succumbed to triumphalism”.
He expressed alarm about recent Middle Eastern and European conflicts.
Tensions have been raised between the West and Russia over Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union.
Mikhail Gorbachev, 83, was attending an event at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The landmark was inaccessible during the Partition of Germany, and is seen as a symbol of the country’s reunification.
“Bloodshed in Europe and the Middle East against the backdrop of a breakdown in dialogue between the major powers is of enormous concern,” Mikhail Gorbachev said.
“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it’s already begun.”
Mikhail Gorbachev is attending an event marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (photo Reuters)
The former Soviet leader said that the West, in particular the US, had succumbed to “triumphalism” after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
For this reason the global powers had been unable to cope with conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and now Ukraine, he added.
He urged the West to lift sanctions on Russian officials – imposed over the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict – and restore trust through dialogue with the Kremlin.
Mikhail Gorbachev, as leader of the USSR in the late 1980s, is credited with rapprochement with the West and creating a more liberal atmosphere which led to the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989.
On November 9 1989 East Germany opened its borders including the Wall, which separated East and West Berlin.
Its collapse led to a mood of euphoria, as many East Germans got their first glimpses of the West.
Hundreds are now arriving in Berlin to celebrate anniversary on November 9.
Festivities will include a rock concert and fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate. Other participants include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Polish president Lech Walesa.
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Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will not be attended by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev due to health problems, his spokesman has announced.
Mikhail Gorbachev, 82, with whom the former British prime minister worked closely at the end of the Cold War, was expected to be one of a number of global figures attending.
Downing Street said consultation over the funeral guest list was continuing.
It has confirmed that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will not be invited.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are already confirmed for next Wednesday’s ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will not be attended by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev due to health problems
During her time in power Margaret Thatcher struck up an unlikely alliance with Mikhail Gorbachev, the reforming Soviet president who oversaw the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Following her death on Monday, Mikhail Gorbachev paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher as a “heavyweight politician and a striking person”.
On Wednesday, British MPs were recalled from their Easter break for a seven-hour Commons debate about Lady Thatcher.
British PM David Cameron said Margaret Thatcher “overcame the great challenges of her age”. Labour’s Ed Miliband paid tribute but said he disagreed “with much of what she did”.
Conservative MPs queued up in the Commons to pay their respects to Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, but about half of Labour’s 256 MPs stayed away.
The Lords also held a debate on the former prime minister, with her former Cabinet ministers Lord Fowler and Lord Tebbit among those paying tribute.
The Guardian has reported that Commons Speaker John Bercow was taken aback by David Cameron’s request to recall Parliament because he thought tributes could be paid on Monday, when MPs were due to return.
The paper reports that a lengthy wrangle ensued, with David Cameron enlisting the support of Ed Miliband to overcome opposition to the move.
Responding to the report, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Only government ministers can request the recall of the House, which the Speaker then decides on.
“The prime minister felt given the strength of feeling following Lady Thatcher’s death it was appropriate to give the House an early opportunity to pay its respects.”
Discussions between PM David Cameron and the Speaker are ongoing about whether Prime Minister’s Questions, usually held at midday, will be cancelled next Wednesday to allow MPs to attend the funeral.
Speaker John Bercow could require MPs to attend the session later in the afternoon, rather than cancel it.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has said “an administrative error” led to inaccurate guidance being issued to diplomatic staff in embassies around the world after it was reported they had been told to wear mourning clothes on the day of the funeral.
They were later told it was unnecessary.
Guests who have said they will be attending Margaret Thatcher’s funeral include ex-Labour PM’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa.
The Queen has not attended the funeral of a British politician since that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
More than 700 armed forces personnel will line the route of the procession from Westminster to St Paul’s, including three bands whose drums will be covered in black cloth.
A gun salute will be fired from the Tower of London and the coffin will be carried into St Paul’s by service personnel from regiments and ships closely associated with the Falklands campaign.
The Metropolitan Police said it was working to ensure the day passed off safely, amid concerns that some people may use it as an opportunity to protest.
On the day of Margaret Thatcher’s death, there were small gatherings in various parts of the UK, notably in Glasgow, Bristol and London, with those taking part saying they were celebrating her death.
Met Commander Christine Jones urged anyone wishing to demonstrate to at the funeral to talk to the police.
“The right to protest is one that must be upheld,” she said.
“However, we will work to do that whilst balancing the rights of those who wish to pay their respects and those who wish to travel about London as usual.”
Margaret Thatcher’s family is meeting an unspecified amount of the expense of the funeral, thought to cover transport, flowers and the cremation, with the government funding the rest, including security.
Downing Street said the cost of the funeral would not be released until after the event.
Margaret Thatcher, who won three successive general elections, died “peacefully” on Monday after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London.
Mikhail Gorbachev has denounced new laws passed in Russia as an “attack on citizens’ rights”.
In a recent interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called on Russian President Vladimir Putin “not to be afraid of his own people”.
Mikhail Gorbachev also criticized Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, saying it was full of “thieves and corrupt officials”.
The laws include fines for organizing unsanctioned protests, stiffer libel penalties, a wider definition of treason and restrictions on websites.
In January, Human Rights Watch accused President Vladimir Putin of unleashing “the worst political crackdown in Russia’s post-Soviet history” since returning to the Kremlin for a third term in May 2012.
The group also said he had overseen “the swift reversal of former President Dmitry Medvedev’s few, timid advances on political freedoms”.
A number of opposition leaders have been arrested since major anti-government protests began to be staged in Moscow and other big cities following the disputed parliamentary elections in December 2011.
Mikhail Gorbachev has denounced new laws passed in Russia as an attack on citizens’ rights
Mikhail Gorbachev said he was “astonished” by the number of controversial laws passed in Russia since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin.
“The common thread running through all of them is an attack on the rights of citizens,” he said.
“For goodness sake, you shouldn’t be afraid of your own people.”
“What people want and expect their president to do is to restore an open, direct dialogue with them. He shouldn’t take offence at this.”
“He should concentrate on trying to drag Russia out of the difficult situation that she is in,” Mikhail Gorbachev added.
Mikhail Gorbachev claimed that Vladimir Putin “sometimes loses his temper”.
“Once he said that <<Gorbachev’s tongue should be cut short>>.”
“I get the feeling that he is very tense and bored. Not everything is going well. I think he should change his style and make readjustments to the regime,” he added.
Mikhail Gorbachev also expressed concern about the president’s entourage.
“Even the inner circle, those by his side, there are so many thieves and corrupt officials there,” he said.
“If things don’t change, Russia will continue to drift like a piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean.”
Democrat fundraiser Michael Douglas is reported to be in discussions to play the famously conservative Republican U.S. President Ronald Regan.
Michael Douglas is being considered for the lead role in the Cold War drama, Reykjavik, which takes place over a few days in 1986, when Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met for peace talks in the Icelandic capital.
The film, which takes place against the backdrop of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, will be produced by Ridley Scott and have Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell behind the camera.
Michael Douglas is being considered for the lead role in the Cold War drama, Reykjavik, which takes place over a few days in 1986, when Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met for peace talks in the Icelandic capital
The $10 million political drama, which is scheduled to begin shooting in March in Germany, is still looking for a Mikhail Gorbachev.
It has been a busy year for Michael Douglas, 67, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Michael Douglas is currently wrapping up shooting on Behind the Candelabra, the Steven Soderbergh-directed movie based on the life of Liberace.
He stars as the flamboyant entertainer in the HBO film which also features Matt Damon, who plays his gay lover Scott Thorson,Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd and Debbie Reynolds.
Michael Douglas will also be starring in Last Vegas, a Hangover-style caper for the senior set, which costars Robert De Diro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline.
His wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, meanwhile will return to the big screen next year in Red 2, a sequel to the surprise-hit 2010 comic-book adaptation about a group of former black ops agents who reassemble when one of them becomes the target of an assassination plot.
As Vladimir Putin prepares to take up Russia’s Presidency for an unprecedented third time, speculation is mounting as to why the future First Lady Lyudmila Putina is never seen by his side.
Some say an affair with spy-turned-lingerie model Anna Chapman, which has been strongly denied, is the reason Lyudmila Putina, a former Aeroflot-hostess, is now rarely seen out in public.
Others say he is still seeing former Olympic gold medallist Alina Kabayeva, claims also heavily rebutted, but who he was alleged to have fathered a child with.
A third theory is Lyudmila Putina, 54, is “locked away” in a $1.5 million state-built guest house in the grounds of the ancient Yelizarov monastery outside Pskov – close to Estonia’s border.
Locals say they have “proof” Lyudmila Putina has been there – but all official enquiries to the authorities are met with a steely silence.
A final hunch is Lyudmila Putina became angry when, in 2008, Vladimir Putin stepped down from the top job but then took up the post of Prime Minister.
Lyudmila Putina is rumored to have moved back to his native St. Petersburg while Vladimir Putin remained in the capital Moscow.
Lyudmila Putina is rumored to have moved back to his native St. Petersburg while Vladimir Putin remained in the capital Moscow
Sociologist Olga Kryshtranovkaya said Vladimir Putin was merely copying Soviet leaders who hid their wives from view.
The one exception, she said, was Mikhail Gorbachev whose wife Raisa played a higher-profile role during the 1980s – but that led to criticism from ordinary Russians.
Olga Kryshtranovkaya told The Times: “For Russia, the status of First Lady is different than in Western countries. It’s our mentality about the role of women, unfortunately.
“Our First Lady has practically always been a housewife who looked after the children and didn’t invite herself into politics.
“The first change was with Gorbachev and it was a very unsuccessful example from the Russian point of view.”
Vladimir Putin, 59, will be inaugurated on May 7, then fly to the U.S. on May 18 for the annual G8 summit of world leaders.
It is unlikely Lyudmila Putina will be with him, as in the last two years they have been seen together just twice. Previously, they were often pictured together on diplomatic trips abroad – Lyudmila Putina seen posing with Tony Blair’s wife Cherie and George W Bush’s First Lady Laura.
In October 2010 the couple, married in 1983, tried to quell rumors they had divorced by posing for pictures as they jointly answered questions for the national census.
Then, on March 4, Lyudmila Putina was spotted leaving a polling station after casting her vote. Little is also known about the couple’s two daughters.
Photographs of Maria, 26, and Yekaterina, 25, have never been published by Russia’s media and no family portraits have ever been released.
Although being undeniably tough on his marriage, speculation that former KGB agent Vladimir Putin is “seeing” flame-haired beauty Anna Chapman will certainly do no harm to his image.
Arrested in the U.S. in 2010 for espionage, Anna Chapman was soon catapulted into the limelight as her pictures were splashed around the world.
Her intelligence career came to an abrupt end when, along with her nine colleagues, she was arrested in New York City an FBI counter-intelligence swoop.
But Anna Chapman, daughter of a senior KGB agent, has become a celebrity in Russia since her dramatic Cold War-style prisoner swap deportation back to her home country in July 2010.
It culminated when last month she appeared on the catwalk at Russian Fashion Week in Moscow clothed in a skin-tight leather ensemble.
Vladimir Putin has also been linked to Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who appeared on Russian Vogue’s cover in January 2011.
Alina Kabayeva, 28, who won a bronze medal in the rhythmic gymnastics at the Sydney Games in 2000 and bettered it with gold four years later at Athens, is alleged to have mothered his lovechild.