Mikhail Gorbachev ceased his activities as president of the USSR.
"The red flag came down almost everywhere after that, but in St Petersburg it continued to fly defiantly from the communist party building.
"Vladimir Putin, then a city official, ordered its removal. It was raised and seized several times. Putin lost patience.
"Under his personal supervision he had the flagpole cut down with a blowtorch.
"Many years later, as Russian president, Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union 'a major geopolitical disaster of the century'.
"In Russia today there are no commemorations to mark December 25."