MOSCOW Mikhail Gorbachev announced to the world he was alive and well after hackers broke into microblogs run by a news agency late on Wednesday and posted false reports of his death.
"I'm alive and well. I understand that some people are trying to use their sites to catch people's attention or are fulfilling the orders of some authority or another," the former Soviet president, 82, said in a statement on newspaper Novaya Gazeta's website.
He said the hackers had been "hoping in vain", and used a Russian profanity to describe them.
Gorbachev is disliked by many Russians for what they see as his role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was followed by political and economic chaos in the 1990s.
The state-run RIA news agency removed the bogus posts from its Twitter blogs within minutes and said it had launched an internal investigation and requested an investigation by the Federal Security Service.
The spokesman for the last president of the Soviet Union said in June Gorbachev had been taken to hospital for tests. Rumors about his health spread online.
Gorbachev has maintained his interest in politics and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin last year.
The hacked sites included Twitter accounts of RIA's German-language service and its International Multimedia Press Center.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Andrew Roche)