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Ex-Soviet FM, Georgia president Eduard Shevardnadze dies

Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, who helped end the Cold War as the Soviet Union's last foreign minister, died on Monday aged 86, his aide said.

TBILISI: Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, who helped end the Cold War as the Soviet Union's last foreign minister, died on Monday aged 86, his aide said.

"Mr Shevardnadze died today at noon," his aide Marina Davitashvili told AFP, weeping. "He was ill for a long time."

Russian leaders swiftly praised Shevardnadze as an outstanding statesman.

President Vladimir Putin expressed "deep condolences to (Shevardnadze's) relatives and loved ones as well as to the entire Georgian people," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev added: "He was a very capable, talented man, very much predisposed to working with people, with all strata of society."

Speaking on popular radio Echo of Moscow, Gorbachev added that Shevardnadze was "Georgia's ideal representative."

"You could speak to him directly, it was good working with him."

Shevardnadze won the highest praise for his time as Gorbachev's chief diplomat, when he negotiated arms-reduction treaties with the United States and brokered the deal that brought down the Berlin Wall.

But his 10 years as leader of his native Georgia left the country mired in poverty and chaos.

Shevardnadze suffered a dramatic fall from grace when his overthrow in the 2003 Rose Revolution saw thousands dancing and singing in the streets of the capital Tbilisi.

He spent his final years in seclusion in his private residence outside Tbilisi, writing memoirs of the time when he helped shape the fate of Europe.

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