Ex-Soviet minister and Georgia leader Shevardnadze dies

TBILISI, (Reuters) – Eduard Shevardnadze, a former president of Georgia and Soviet foreign minister, died today after a long struggle with illness, his personal assistant said.

Shevardnadze, who was 86, 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.

The last Soviet president, Mikhail 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”.

 Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze

Shevardnadze’s assistant, Marina Davitashvili, told Reuters he had died after a long illness and said he had died at midday local time.

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.

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.

He was one of the intellectual fathers of “perestroika” (restructuring), the reform policy which Gorbachev said was conceived during a stroll along the shores of the Black Sea with his Georgian comrade.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia to become president and brought some stability to the republic after a period of anarchy, when protesters toting Kalashnikovs prowled the streets.

He was toppled in the country’s 2003 Rose Revolution, unceremoniously bundled out of parliament by his minders when it was stormed by protesters.

“I see that all this cannot simply go on. If I was forced tomorrow to use my authority it would lead to a lot of bloodshed,” he said when he stepped down in November of that year. “I have never betrayed my country and so it is better that the president resigns.”

More in World News

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning:

Most Read This Week

  1. PG4&25.QXD

    Guyana now ranked below Haiti

  2. The section of the Fly Jamaica tail that was severed.

    CAL plane strikes tail of Fly Jamaica craft at CJIA

  3. Maryanna Lionel

    No bail but speedy trial promised to bribery accused in carpenter murder probe

  4. Samantha Sheoprashad

    Guyanese woman one of 60 recognised by Queen’s young leaders programme

  5. Prince Harry, in the British High Commission vehicle, is driven past the protestors.

    Prince Harry arrives

  6. Herman David

    Diamond man killed in Soesdyke crash

  7. Former Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai in heckle mode (Photo by Keno George)

    ‘Death announcement’ budget animates both sides of the House

  8. Selena Ramotar

    Attempted murder accused freed after stabbing victim refuses to testify


Recommended For You