22/05/2012 13:50 BST | Updated 22/05/2012 15:58 BST

Mikhail Gorbachev Dead: Twitter Hoax Tricks Thousands

Former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev today became the victim of a Twitter hoax, with his death prematurely announced on the micro-blogging network and retweeted by thousands of users, including several experienced journalists.

The source of the hoax appeared to be a rogue account for the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Earlier this afternoon a tweet was posted from the account that read: "The Government of Sweden received the news of the death of Mikhail S Gorbachev, last president of the Soviet Union and great man of peace."

The fact that the tweet was written in Spanish - probably not the first linguistic choice for the Swedish PM - did nothing to prevent the network going into meltdown, with thousands of Twitter users retweeting the message.

For a time Gorbachev became one of the top trending terms and his Wikipedia page briefly indicated today, 22 May, as the day he died.

However, once it became clear that there was no truth in the announcement whatsoever those that had helped to spread the rumour had to rapidly back-pedal.

Times columnist David Aaronovitch was one of those taken in.

He tweeted later: "Re Gorbachev, I may have been hoaxed. Sorry if that's so."

Gorbachev, now 81, was hailed for working with former US president Ronald Reagan to reduce the world's nuclear stockpiles and giving the Soviet people more freedom through his policy of glasnost.