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UK Ex-PM Thatcher Dies at 87

Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died on Monday at the age of 87 following a stroke, her spokesman announced.

MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died on Monday at the age of 87 following a stroke, her spokesman announced.

"It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning," Lord Bell said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called her a "great Briton,” while the Queen expressed her sadness.

US President Barack Obama issued a statement saying that "the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Thatcher as a "colorful" politician.

“Thatcher was certainly one of the most colorful political figures of the modern world,” Putin told reporters after talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “I personally knew her, she always made a very strong impression,” he said, adding that Thatcher was a pragmatic and consistent person, and that her hardline approach had helped Britain out of an economic crisis.

Rutte also praised Thatcher, calling her an outstanding person.

Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, a post she held from 1979 until 1990, when she was forced out by a Conservative Party coup following rioting in Trafalgar Square over her unpopular poll tax.

Perhaps the most controversial figure in modern British politics, a grocer’s daughter, Thatcher was a committed believer in the free market and an opponent of the culture of a welfare state – or the “nanny state," as she called it.

“There is no such thing as society,” she said in 1987. “There are individual men and women and there are families.”

She took Britain to war in 1982, after Argentina invaded the tiny Falkland Islands located just off the coast of Argentina.

"Rejoice! Rejoice!" she cried after British Marines had taken a key island, the triumph carrying her to an easy victory in the 1983 national election.

Thatcher also famously took on Britain’s once powerful trade unions, labeling striking miners the “enemy within” during their 1984-1985 walkout. Her eventual defeat of the miners’ union changed Britain’s political landscape and made many on the left hate her.

A firm ally of US President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War, Thatcher nevertheless hailed future Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during a 1984 meeting in Britain. Gorbachev would come to lead the Soviet Union three months later.

“Margaret Thatcher was a great politician and a striking person,” Gorbachev said in a statement on Monday.

Thatcher was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” in Russia for her perceived toughness, a moniker that was then picked up by her supporters and critics at home.

She also survived an IRA attack on the Brighton hotel she was staying at ahead of a Conservative Party conference.

Thatcher’s time in power transformed Britain both politically and culturally, seeing the rise of what critics labeled the “me” culture.

Former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler of Brockwell, who served as Thatcher's principal private secretary from 1982 to 1985, told RIA Novosti that Margaret Thatcher was "above all a conviction politician. She had her own principles, whatever trial she faced, be it in the Falklands, the miners' strike, or the Cold War."

"She believed in freedom and justice under the law ... these were such clear principles that she always knew what direction to take," he added.

Her funeral, with full military honors, will be held at London's St. Paul's Cathedral.

Updated at 1710 adding Lord Butler's comments, and expanded at 1847, Obama's comments added at 2000, comments by Putin and Rutte added at 2358.

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