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Ukraine bans Gorbachev over support for Crimea annexation

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev looks on during a presentation of his new book "After Kremlin" in Moscow December 26, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine has banned former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from entry for the next five years over his support for Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) said on Thursday.

A spokesman for Gorbachev pointed to his response to Russian state media earlier this week when asked about a possible Ukraine travel ban. “Fine, I don’t go there and I will not go there,” he said.

The Crimea does not have uniformly happy associations for Gorbachev whose Perestroika reforms ended the Cold War but ultimately brought the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

It was at a holiday home at Foros, on its Black Sea coast, that he was held prisoner for three days in 1991 in a failed coup by communist hardliners.

Gorbachev, 85, has repeatedly commended the 2014 annexation of the peninsula, which houses a large Russian naval base. On Sunday, he told Britain’s Sunday Times he would have acted the same way as President Vladimir Putin in a similar situation.

However, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner has warned of potentially dire consequences if tensions are not reduced over the Ukraine crisis. He has also been critical of Putin on domestic issues.

The annexation followed the toppling of a pro-Russian president in Kiev. Within weeks, a pro-Russian insurrection broke out the east of Ukraine that has so far cost over 9,000 lives and soured relations between Moscow and the West.

“We have indeed banned him from entering for five years in the interests of state security, including for his public support of the military annexation of Crimea,” SBU spokeswoman, Olena Gitlyanska, said in post on Facebook.

Last September, the SBU banned former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi from entering Ukraine after he became the most prominent Western politician to visit Crimea, where he met Putin, an old friend and political ally.

Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly; editing by Matthias Williams and Ralph Boulton