Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday hailed Fidel Castro, the Cuban socialist icon who has aged 90, for ‘strengthening’ his island nation.

“Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development,” Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.