(Reuters) – Eduard Shevardnadze, a former president of Georgia and Soviet foreign minister, 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, and 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.

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