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/ Source: Reuters

TBILISI, Georgia - Eduard Shevardnadze, an ex-president of Georgia, died on Monday 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.

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His assistant, Marina Davitashvili, told Reuters he had died after a long illness. Russia's Interfax news agency reported he had died at noon local time. As foreign minister under the last Soviet leader, Mikhail 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, although they later fell out.

Former Soviet Foreign Minister and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze stands in front of a wreath of flowers he laid at a monument in Mexico City on October 4, 1986.AFP - Getty Images, file
- Reuters