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Perestroika co-founder no more

Shevardnadze

Tbilisi, July 7 (Reuters): Eduard Shevardnadze, a former President of Georgia and Soviet foreign minister, died today after a long struggle with illness. He was 86.

Shevardnadze was one of the intellectual fathers of “perestroika” (restructuring), the reform policy that Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet President, said was conceived during a stroll along the shores of the Black Sea with his Georgian comrade.

As foreign minister under Gorbachev, Shevardnadze oversaw the thaw in relations with the West before the Berlin Wall came down and the communist Soviet Union was dismantled. Shevardnadze played a vital role in ending the Cold War as Soviet foreign minister, went on to lead his native Georgia in the stormy early years after independence before being ousted in street protests.

Gorbachev, expressed sorrow over the passing of a “friend”, hailing him as an “extraordinary, talented person” who had done much to bring down the Berlin Wall and end the nuclear arms race.

“He was always quick to find a way of connecting with different people — with youngsters and the older generation. He had a bright character, a Georgian temperament,” he said, referring to Shevardnadze’s passionate nature.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to his “family, as well as the Georgian people”.

Loved by some but hated by others in his native Georgia after bringing stability but failing to tackle widespread corruption, Shevardnadze rarely ventured out of his hill-top residence during his last years.

 
 
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