Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro, one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90.
His younger brother and successor as president Raul Castro announced the news on state television.
Castro toppled the government in 1959, introducing a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades, surviving many assassination plots.
His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. Critics saw him as a dictator.
Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in an unexpected late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated later on Saturday.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” he said. “Towards victory, always!” he added, using a revolutionary slogan.
There is to be several days of national mourning on the island.
Russian President Vladimir Putin have send a message to Cuban President Raul Castro:
“The name of this eminent statesman is rightly considered a symbol of a whole era in world history.
“The free and independent Cuba which he and his allies built became an influential member of the international community and was an inspirational example for many countries and peoples.
“Fidel Castro was a true and loyal friend of Russia. He personally invested a great deal in the establishment and development of Russian-Cuban relations, close strategic cooperation in all spheres.
“This strong and wise man always looked to the future with confidence. He embodied the high ideals of a politician, citizen and patriot, truly convinced of the cause to which he devoted his entire life.
“His memory will live on always in Russians’ hearts.
French President Francois Hollande said in a statement; Fidel Castro embodied Cuba’s revolution in both its “hopes” and its later “disappointments”.
“An actor of the Cold War… he represented, for Cubans, pride in rejecting external domination,” he added.
Mr Hollande met both Fidel and Raul Castro on a visit to Cuba in 2015, becoming the first French president to visit since 1898.
He hosted Raul Castro on a state visit to Paris earlier this year.